Whether your school’s in a rural or urban setting, maintaining good relations with your neighbours is key to the success and image of your school brand. In every walk of life, we’ll all encounter times when our local community does something that affects us, or when we want to do something that will affect it. If we want to navigate these kinds of challenges successfully, then we need to meet them head on – so let’s look at some of the things we can do, as schools, to address them.
I believe the single biggest factor that will help you is to be an active, positive force within your neighbourhood. Make sure your school takes part in wider community events. Hallbrook Primary School regularly takes part in the annual local carnival procession, and has done for many years. We put on huge displays which the community love to see – especially the children, who get to participate and have fun in a positive environment.
Our secondary school opens its facilities up to the community in order to host the carnival, which draws people to the schools and therefore provides opportunities for us to market ourselves further. That’s one example of what you can do, but we do many other things too, such as organising the local Santa Dash and Dawdle Run. Our choir sings at the local care home, and we open up the school for use by local groups, such as the Sea Cadets. These are all ways in which you can really project the positive image of your school out there to the wider public.
Within our school community, social events are a great way of building relationships with parents. Your PTA can be hugely helpful here – a close working relationship with your key school gate mums and dads can go a long way.
Many schools organise annual ‘camp overs’, but do let your neighbours know about these. We recently took our school councillors around to meet the school’s neighbours, so that they could talk to them about what we were planning and also invite them to attend if they wanted. It was a simple gesture, but gratefully received and the event turned out to be a huge success.
Where there are challenges within your school, listening to the community and being open to what they tell you is vital. Why not hold an open forum or a surgery, where parents and community representatives can come and discuss the issues they’re experiencing? The school can then explain what they’ve been doing to resolve said issues and further develop its partnership with the community.
Good communication is needed in order for your community to know what’s happening and what you’re doing. Are you using social media to promote your school and the positive impact it’s having? Are you writing for your local parish magazine, perhaps in a monthly ‘school slot’? Is there a member of your team at the school gates each morning, ready to speak with parents? If you want to support your school, improve its image and boost its brand, make sure you communicate with everyone in a timely fashion.
Philip Burton is business manager at Hallbrook Primary School in Broughton Astley, Leicestershire