Head of Interaction and Service Design at @DigitalDWP
Keeping a school open using effective marketing
This isn’t a normal post from me but stick with it as I think it may come in handy to some people.
Jennifer, my fiancee is an incredibly talented Nursery Teacher in a school in the North East of England. We’ve recently both noticed a change in the education system in the North East especially as this is home after all. There have been some schools in the North East which are losing numbers of children joining the school and because the schools are funded on a ‘per child’ basis every year if there is a drop in numbers there is then a drop in funding for the school for that particular year. This funding covers costs like staff wages, materials, working costs basically everything you see in a school.
The Government trying to help
It seems that the governments point of view on this is to build part private / part funded schools which are now going to be called an ‘Academy’. An academy is too be larger than a normal school and will be ran by multiple head teachers and usually have a ‘manager’ at the helm. Whilst this works for a number of local areas there are still some schools which are being left to fend for themselves.
A drop in numbers for a school could be detrimental to its survival, a heavy drop in numbers could leave the school with a deficit from £10’000 to £80’000 in any one year. Such a deficit requires quick action and usually like it most areas of work the quickest way to recover is to offer redundancy.
Remember what a school is
Looking behind the education system, you have to remember that a school is still a business. As I explained before, schools are funded by the government and the funds are decided on how many children are being taught at the school. If a schools numbers drops suddenly, so does the money in. Still with me?
If a school doesn’t keep its numbers up then tragic things happen, teachers could be made redundant and worst of all the school could indeed be amalgamated with another school or be forced to close.
Schools could indeed become complacent as it is entirely normal for them to have a good amount of new children joining the school every year, however at the moment there is literally a shortage.
Fixing the business
First off, identify the issue. If the single issue is that their aren’t enough new school starters then you need to figure out how to fix it. Parents have a choice where to send their children, just like school leavers can choose which University or College to go to. Most parents will choose a local school however some if not most will pick a school which is leading in various fields. In the United Kingdom we have OFSTED reports, the OFSTED reports show how well a school is doing. The reports are published publicly so parents can find out which schools in their area are doing really good things.
Here’s one for the teachers / head teachers and governors of schools;
If parents do not know that your school is doing fantastic things for the children and giving them the best education they could get, why would they send them to the school!?
The statement is certainly not rocket science but it is definitely something which could be overlooked.
Social Marketing and PR
Nurturing talent and building on it is a clever way to get noticed. If you have some of the best teachers you’ve ever worked with at your school nurture them, give them what they want. If they want to achieve great things along the way, give them a helping hand. If the teachers are happy the children and the parents will be ecstatic. If the parents are happy then word spreads and the schools ‘community’ grows.
You can use PR to support your marketing efforts, by letting the wider community know about the school doing well through the likes of local newspapers you are again growing your community effort. You could even use some good associated PR for the kind of school trips or community liaison work the school has done.
With regards to Social Media, nine times out of ten a schools website is pretty terrible. They usually have a donated website via the local authority which is thrown together by an I.T professional of some description. Whilst they’re perfectly brilliant with normal I.T related issues they’re certainly not web orientated.
Just off the top of my head I thought of a few things which you could publish on a school website for promotion;
A school walk-around – Show the prospective clients (parents) what the school is like inside, show them the brilliant learning environments your fantastic teachers have developed for the children.
List the teachers in the school with their associated skill set and tell the parents why they’re brilliant at what they do.
Do walk and talk video’s with the teachers on what they’ve been doing on various weeks and detail it all for parents to watch online.
Grow your school communities through social media and let the parents know of things happening online.
Use Twitter as a reporting system of what various years groups are doing on particular days so the parents are kept informed.
Those are just 5 things you can do to promote your school online. The only thing you have to be careful of these days are the rights of the children not to be video’d and photographed.
Personally, because I live with a teacher I’d love to work with a school on it’s social marketing, it is business after all.