We’ve all been forced to do things differently since March – and schools have had to make more changes than most.
With the doors shut to most pupils and staff for months, teachers and leaders had to find imaginative yet safe ways to keep in touch with children and their parents and carers. A side of A4 emailed out as a pdf once a week wasn’t going to cut it!
Staff were amazingly flexible: some undertook a programme of wellbeing phone calls to families, while others discovered a talent for making and uploading cookery videos.
Schools that had previously fought shy of social media suddenly found themselves with a complete set of YouTube pages and/or Facebook groups, not to mention a whole new online learning platform.
But now that the 2020-21 academic year is under way - whether we are in an established ‘next normal’ or another lockdown by the time you read this – it’s time to take stock. Which of the innovations is worth keeping, which can be tweaked and which ditched?
It’s worth looking, too, at your pre-Covid practices, many of which you’ve probably used without question for years. Are they still the best ways to make sure the right messages are getting through to current parents, prospective parents and the wider community?
Perhaps it’s time to streamline your communication channels. Too many, and no one will know where to go for information about your school. First stop is your website.
You have no doubt made sure that it is DfE compliant but does it need an ‘autumn clean’ to remove outdated pandemic advice, old class blogs and terrible photos?
Check that term dates, inset day dates, and other key events in the calendar are easy to find. What about uniform and school meals details? Ensure that the school phone number is clearly displayed and that there’s a general email address or contact form - with response expectations explained.
All this will make life easier for the families that have already entrusted their children to your care, but also remember the website is your ‘shop window’ for future intakes.
If you are holding open events, virtual or otherwise, make sure the details are prominent.
While a few years ago you might have advertised in a local paper, now you might share the dates on social media sites – but will tired mums and dads, scrolling their feeds late at night, retain the information? Perhaps you still need a banner on your school railings.
Many have found relationships with families have improved over lockdown – so make the most of those new partnerships. Encourage supportive parents to promote your school in their social networks - and tip you off about any negative or inaccurate comments in community and private WhatsApp groups.
Perhaps most importantly, consider the impact of these changing channels on staff workload and wellbeing. Ensure roles and responsibilities are set out, time allowed for them, and training provided where necessary.
Think outside the box – it is not all down to the head or business manager; if a TA has an aptitude for creating eye-catching Insta posts, why not make that part of their job?
- ‘Autumn clean’ your website
- Streamline your other online and offline channels
- Be clear about expectations
- Counter any anti-social media
- Capitalise on hidden talents
- Share out responsibilities
- Build on parent partnerships
Linda Tanner is a communications consultant with Local Voice Media. She has been a regional journalist since 1977 and has been involved in school governance for more than two decades.