Sacred Heart Tullamore achieving sustainability through reimagined learning

Dr. Kevin Marshall

Dr. Kevin Marshall

Head of Education, Microsoft Ireland

Read Time, 5 min.

Irish rural secondary school has boosted sustainability and increased collaboration, while building a deep culture of trust through its innovative approach to education. 

Sustainability and promoting collaboration are vital goals in education today. Sacred Heart Secondary School in Tullamore, Co Offaly is achieving both by harnessing the transformative power of digital tools in education.  

“We now offer our students education on the student’s terms for the first time ever,” says school principal Pauline McKenna. “They get a device and immediately start to collaborate with their class mates on a platform with which they are really familiar and comfortable. We are always exploring new ways to learn and share knowledge”. 

“We offer education on the student’s terms” 

Rather than the old-fashioned, one-way mode of a teacher addressing a class, students and staff at Sacred Heart are taking a different approach by working together, using Surface Pro 2 Devices and Microsoft Office 365 tools.  

“We are able to sustain an environment of change and innovation in our school because of our use of Microsoft software and devices.” 

A dramatic move to sustainable education 

The school now uses over 80% less paper than it did five years ago and has also cut its use of toner cartridges, pens and related packaging accordingly. Almost none of the students use paper textbooks.  

That has transformed the sustainability profile of the school and has also freed up budget for the creation of more teenage-friendly classrooms and congregation areas, explains Pauline. “Now, when you walk through this school, you see it as a modern, teenage environment. It’s all part of rethinking education.” 

“Teachers’ average annual continuous professional development (CPD) hours skyrocketing to 36, from seven hours previously 

Sustaining staff to be at their best 

Furthermore, the school is causing fewer carbon emissions. For example, teachers no longer have to travel 90km to attend in-person training in a hotel. Instead, they attend webinars, which has seen their teachers’ average annual continuous professional development (CPD) hours skyrocketing to 36, from seven hours previously.  

“The pace of curricula change is faster now and the challenges in the student cohort are more complex,” says Pauline. “To keep great staff, we need to sustain them and support them to flourish through CPD. That is where we can nurture them and keep feeding their knowledge.” 

Enabling students to learn at their own pace  

The transition to digital learning has also given students a sense of control and creativity over their own work, while also raising the average reading age of students.  

Being able to access recordings of teachers explaining complex topics has proven empowering for them and they appreciate being able to access this knowledge after class. “The technology empowers students to take control of their own education. It’s not a one-size-fits-all anymore”, notes Pauline. It also saves teachers time in having to spend additional one-to-one time with students who may have been absent or find the topic challenging. 

“The technology empowers students to take control of their own education. It’s not a one-size-fits-all anymore.” 

As staff and students use OneNote heavily, the teachers are also pleased to have moved on from the days of constantly carrying heavy bags of paper notes and copy books.  

In fact, students and staff across the school make the most of Office 365, and in particular, Microsoft Teams, Forms, FlipGrid, as well as Minecraft.  

Access to expertise and support 

Throughout Sacred Heart’s move to digital-first, which began nine years ago, the school has liaised with Microsoft and partner Wriggle. Stephen Eustace, a Surface specialist for the public sector at Microsoft, advises on the school’s use of devices and helps to shape staff training.  

“I maintain regular contact and provide insight and updates into what is happening in education,” he says, “ensuring they maximise the value from their membership in the Microsoft Showcase community and highlight the great work that happens in the school.” 

Fostering parent-school relationships 

With parent-teacher meetings now online, parents are saved from having to drive to the school and queuing over two to three hours to see teachers. Moreover, all communications from the school to parents are online, saving postage and administration time.  

The real benefit in going digital-first, however, has been how it has enabled the school to build deep trust with parents. “It was a lot to ask parents to buy into this at a small rural school five years ago,” says Pauline. “Now the school is really trusted to make decisions.  

“We have proven ourselves, as really good relationships with parents have been maintained during the pandemic. They trust us and know we will be moving on to tackle the next big thing,” she adds.  

“We tell them, ‘Innovative things will be happening in your daughter’s classroom’, and that culture of innovation has absolutely increased their trust in us.” 

Shaping resilient and future-ready students 

“Enjoying a digital-first education also prepares students for adult life more broadly”, adds Pauline, “especially given the relentless pace of change we all face. 

“When you have this level of innovation with students, you already have kids who are not afraid of change, because every day they are doing something different. It is all about mindset. 

“The introduction of one small device changed many cultures and practices in our school. As a result, we are preparing young women to go into a world that will be totally shaped by change and most of them will be very well able to manage that change.”

Learn how your school can reimagine education in a new era of digital learning.

Remote Learning with Microsoft Surface for Education

Curious on how to transform your teaching and learning experience with technology? Redesign learning with Microsoft Surface for Education.

Discover more related articles per industry:


  • a person sitting at a desk in front of a computer

    Reimagining Uninterrupted Learning at Sacred Heart School in Tullamore

    As students and teachers found themselves away from the classroom environment and learning from home, schools were again adapting to different ways of learning to ensure quality education continues. For the Sacred Heart School in Tullamore, Co Offaly, the staff and student body were well prepared to deal with this upheaval and continued to deliver […]

  • Northern Ireland moves to cloud-first education

    Northern Ireland moves to cloud-first education

    Northern Ireland moves to cloud-first education All teachers in the region now being equipped with Surface Pro laptops Transforming how education is provided in Northern Ireland over the next decade is a crucial goal for the region’s Education Authority.  To meet digital skills needs over that period and beyond, the authority is implementing a versatile […]

Finance & Insurance


  • Two people inside using Surface Go in office

    How technology is transforming the work of governments

    Governments have the ultimate responsibility to their citizens. People depend on the services they provide like no other institution. Whether in healthcare, education, business, roads, railways, water – it’s essential that government institutions are always at the forefront of social and digital trends. Cloud-powered technologies are playing a critical role in helping government agencies to […]


  • Two people working in Healthcare with a Windows device

    Medical device provider builds an Azure data estate for any future

    Danish med-tech company Coloplast makes innovative care products for people with intimate health challenges. To help maintain productive customer relationships and better understand the needs of patients, Coloplast migrated from an on-premises data warehouse and business intelligence (BI) solution to Microsoft Power BI, Azure SQL Data Warehouse, and other Azure services. The migration is part […]

  • A woman undergoing a scan

    Predictive maintenance is improving quality of life for cancer patients

    With cancer affecting more than 17 million people annually, a figure set to rise dramatically in the coming years, efficient and cost-effective treatment is essential. Since deploying Microsoft Azure IoT, IBA Worldwide, a leading developer of medical equipment for cancer treatment, has been able to reduce the cost of maintenance and improve repair times for […]



  • Whitepaper: Retail Insights – Harnessing the Power of Data

    Whitepaper: Retail Insights – Harnessing the Power of Data

    The retail industry contributes a significant portion to the GDP of many countries, employs tens of millions of people and touches nearly everyone. In order to gain insight at a particularly volatile time for the industry, we recently conducted a survey with 100 retail executives to gain insight into their business challenges and learn about […]

  • A man standing in front of a truck

    Why leading Irish retailer Musgrave is ready for anything with cloud technology

    “When assessing the potential effects of major digital transformation projects on our business, we always think about three key constituents: colleagues, retailers, and consumers.” So says Paul Baguley, IT PMO for Musgrave Retail – Ireland’s leading food retail, wholesale and food service company. Together with its retail partners, who operate under leading brands including SuperValu […]

Discover more related articles per dossier:

Customer Stories

Digital Transformation

  • a man holding a gun

    Making the Schiphol Airport more sustainable into the future

    With over 71 million passengers a year, Schiphol is one of the biggest airports in Europe. Giving all of the passengers the most frictionless airport experience as possible, 17,000 assets need to be serviced and maintained 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In order to deliver service excellence and optimize the maintenance, BAM […]


  • Image of a man and woman smiling

    Microsoft and Connect at Catalyst Inc

    Microsoft and Connect at Catalyst Inc It’s an exciting time to be working in the technology sector in Northern Ireland. More than ever before we’re seeing increased numbers of entrepreneurs, start-up businesses, and indeed multinationals setting up in the North. Working together and learning from each other encourages a strong technology ecosystem and ultimately yields […]

Security & Privacy


  • Group of two female and one male office workers brainstorming in informal office setting. Both women are using laptops while the man is writing. Large screen shown in background.

    2019 Modern Selling Trends in 5 webinars

    The relationship between buyers and sellers grows more complicated each day. Every potential partnership requires finding the right buyer, fully understanding their business, tracking progress through the buying cycle, and engaging them with the right content—when and how they want it. These shifting dynamics underscore the artistry of modern selling. When the time is right, […]