How to keep your school’s website a step ahead of the inspectors
Most schools are aware of the fact that they are required to publish certain information on their school websites, which is why it’s surprising to see so many of them still failing to do this clearly.
Maintained schools are governed by the The School Information Regulations, while independent schools must abide by The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations.
Both sets of regulations require schools to publish information on their website but this isn’t always done as well as it could be.
In the case of Ofsted, its inspections take into account a school’s adherence to the regulations, so there should be no excuse for not providing this information. But whatever type of school you are, it makes sense not just to meet the requirements but to go beyond them, by providing a genuinely useful and accessible service through your school’s website.
Your school’s website is a tool to aid effective communication, so make sure you’re using it as just that.
The personal touch
One of the key things to feature in The School Information Regulations is that the “name, postal address and telephone number of the school, and the name of a person to whom enquiries should be addressed” should be included on a school’s website. The Education (Independent School Standards) Regulations also require “the school’s address and telephone number and the name of the head teacher” as well as contact details of the proprietor (either the individual or body).
Most schools will have a contact page where the head teacher is listed as a named contact. Often they will be referred to as “Mrs Smith”, whereas “Mrs Jane Smith” offers a more personal touch and one which makes you seem much more accessible to your audience.
Most parents will know the Head’s name anyway and, if they appear in the press, their full name will be used there, so why not include it here?
Go a step further in meeting the requirements and explain how to address enquiries to other contacts. The Head won’t want to deal with every little enquiry, so try to direct people to the relevant contact at the outset.
Plenty of schools have phone systems that offer you different options to get through to different departments but then abandon this approach completely on their website. There is no reason why you shouldn’t list other key contacts, such as Heads of Year or pastoral staff on your website.
It makes sense, both for your school administration and your audience, to make the process as clear and as easy as possible.
Much of regulatory requirements for both maintained and independent schools are concerned with presenting statistical information and performance data. This covers things like school performance tables, details of the curriculum offered, pupil premium funding, SEN support data and other reports.
While we all know that performance statistics are used by prospective parents, we also know that statistics don’t tell the full story about a school.
Don’t be afraid to provide additional information around performance tables or funding data. Explain to parents how results have been achieved, or why funding was spent in the way that it was. Provide a statement from the Head or other key staff that sets out what you’ve done so far and what you intend to do next.
All of this helps to inform current and prospective parents and shows that your school is a three-dimensional, thriving community, not just a set of statistics.
The “value” of news
All schools must provide information on the nature of their school somewhere on their websites. Maintained schools are required to publish “A statement of the school’s ethos and values” while independent schools must offer “a statement of the school’s ethos (including any religious ethos) and aims”.
Again, most schools will offer this somewhere, perhaps as a separate page in the “About our School” section of the site but if you really want to show that your school is adhering to those values, you should be publishing content that reflects that.
News stories are the obvious way to do this and help to keep your site feeling fresh and up-to-date. They also have the benefit of demonstrating to prospective pupils and parents what life is really like at your school.
Tales of sporting success, academic enrichment, extra-curricular activities and the achievements of both pupils and staff all paint a vivid picture of your school community and show clearly how the daily life of your school matches up to those well -meaning statements buried on that “values” page.
All of the above help demonstrate to school inspectors how you are making the process of communication as easy as possible for parents, pupils and the other groups within your audience.