This might sound bonkers, but it was a school with a seemingly poor reputation that caught my attention and ended up being the one my children attend today.
Doing what every parent does when they don’t know any better, I asked other parents about schools in the area. There was one school nobody seemed to mention – it was a stone’s throw from my home and there was always the same response when I asked about it. People seemed to think it was a bit rubbish – but when pressed, no-one could say why.
None of the people who had an opinion on the school had visited it, knew anyone who went there or had even read anything about it, so I decided to investigate.
Since then the school has invested time and much enthusiasm into their PR and marketing, and it’s reputation is finally starting to reflect the actual magic that happens there every day.
I tell people to get their oldest in now, because it’s soon going to be oversubscribed. When we discuss PR and marketing with regards to schools, there seems to be a level of distrust, even disgust from many, as if this should solely be the realm of the private sector, the commercial and the corporate.
However, savvy schools are realising that this area is absolutely vital – not just if you want to keep pupil intake high, but also if you want to maintain some control over the story that’s being told about your school.
Providing you can back up your claims with substance, when times are good your reputation will be good too. People will want to come to the school. Pupils, parents, and members of staff will be well-informed about all the great things that are happening, and feel proud of their choice to join the school community.
When things go wrong, this good stuff you’ve been consistently broadcasting could be what people remember, in spite of any efforts on the part of some to damage your name and good standing.
Your school can be seen as a ‘first choice’ among local families if you articulate and market your unique selling points while keeping them firmly grounded in the experience of the school community.
In a landscape of increasing competition, where academies, free schools and perhaps soon new grammar schools will catch parents’ eyes, building networks and partnerships with others in the sector and local business could make your school stand out.
Maintaining a good reputation within the local community can lead to further excellent partnerships, some of which might even lead to alternative revenue streams – a big help when funds are at a premium. Future partnerships might also open up opportunities for your students in universities, business and beyond.
Penny Rabiger is head of membership at the Challenge Partners collaborative network of schools, a school governor and serves on the steering group of the BAMEed Network – follow @Penny_Ten