How to engage with potential pupils and their parents

Being a parent and having worked in the media industry for 16 years, running radio stations and helping clients better communicate with customers, and a passion for technology, innovation and the web, I know how new technologies can help schools deliver their, often complex, messages.

I have 3 children, all in school (2 daughters in primary, going into years 1 and 5 and my son in secondary going into year 8), as well as running my business with my business partners, Greg and Jamie.  I have been through the school selection process several times so I understand what its like from a parents point of view and know what parents want to see when looking at schools for their children.

I, like all of my friends, spent a lot of time researching schools on the web and though some school websites and prospectuses were fairly informative, non of them were engaging or gave me any feeling for the school’s environment, true values, what the teachers were like and how the current pupils felt about their school.  This meant I had to spend a lot of time visiting several schools over a period of a couple of weeks (in the case of the secondary schools this meant going to 4 open days/evenings).

Choosing a school is like buying a house, you pretty much know straight away from the feel and the attitude of the pupils whether you’re going to like it.  What could have saved me, my husband, my babysitter and my son a lot of time was having a better feel for the schools before we had to make a decision about which ones to visit and that is where video and digital technology come into their own.

Is your school prepared for the video web revolution?

Up until quite recently, schools relied on traditional communications methods to get their messages out to parents, whether that was how their school was performing, national changes, future plans or engaging with parents of prospective pupils.

In recent years, we have seen an explosion in new technologies, social media and an expectation of instant communication. We have also seen expectations of our teachers increase, leading to additional work on top of traditional teaching roles.

There is no sector across the country that has not been affected by the web revolution and education is no different.  Smart phones, tablets and other hand held devices now account to more than 50 per cent of browsing habits. So how do schools keep up with this and new technological developments, when time and budget constraints are tight?

Choosing a school is one of the most important decisions a parent will ever make and first impressions count. The web is full of information about schools, education, the curriculum, new academy-style schools and skills and enterprise, but none of this tells you how a school feels, what are its true values and are the pupils really happy!

We have taken a fresh look at how to do this and through my company have been working closely with schools to see how they can do this, without spending huge amounts of money and more importantly, time.

There is so much information for a school to get to parents, yet printed brochures and annual reviews no longer meet their needs.  In every walk of life, people want to be able to access up-to-date information in a way that suits their needs – and at a time to suit them. This could be a spare ten minutes on a work break or in the evening – and this information needs to be easily accessible.

So, what is the answer for schools that are both short on time and also struggling to juggle their budgets? From discussions with teachers, they do not have the time to spend promoting their schools, as this is time they would much rather be spending in the classroom with their pupils. Equally they would like to have some digital expertise to get the job done quickly and effectively as possible.

We have been working with a number of schools on developing interactive digital prospectuses that can achieve just this. Our research at Phenix Education has shown parents don’t want jargon or long winded explanations; they want to know what plans you have for their child’s education and whether their child will be happy and want to learn whilst at your school.  Feedback has shown parents like to see a ‘real’ account of what you, as a school can offer, that other schools can’t.

If a picture is worth a thousand words, video is worth even more. A digital interactive prospectus is packed with professionally shot video, on easy to turn pages. They are also ‘responsive’ meaning whatever device they are viewed on, they resize to fit the screen.

A digital prospectus can easily embedded into your website or social media channels, and are optimised for search engines, meaning if people are searching for you, you will be easily found and have an up-to-date, easy to read brochure at their finger tips.

In addition you have removed printing and posting costs, while having evidence of how many people have viewed it. You will know whom you are reaching and more importantly, you will create a good impression and a good reputation. The digital prospectuses content and video can also be updated throughout the year, without additional printing costs, another saving.

One of the real benefits to working in this way, aside from the long term cost saving, is to take the pressure off you – as teaching professionals – and create your school a prospectus which strikes the right chord while letting you do what you do best; concentrate on educating youngsters.

To see more of what we have to offer and watch our show reel please visit www.phenixeducation.co.uk

jo

By Jo Lee, Director of Phenix Education

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