Your School. Your Website.
Your audience awaits.
Who is your audience? How do they benefit? How does the school benefit?
Consider the different groups who use your website, the information they are looking for, and the benefits to the school of them being able to find the right information at the right time.
It is an important list because it is a reminder that your website does not exist for some pointless “because we have to have one” reason, but because there are real benefits from making it the best you can.
The website is one of the public faces of your school and it is the one which you have most control over. As well as the direct school community there are a wide range of groups of people who want to know more about your school, including feeder schools, FE and HE institutions, the local authority, alumni, local residents, community organisations and businesses.
For many of those groups, their only source of information will be your website. It is the only chance you will get to present your school’s vision, to communicate the events and achievements within your school, provide further contact details, and raise your school’s profile and reputation within these groups.
It can help to raise revenue, for example through publicising the hire of facilities or promoting fundraising activities and events to people outside your school community. Your website is also a great way to embrace your school’s past, present and future, bringing it together in a coherent narrative.
A key aim of your website should be to reduce the number of routine enquiries your school receives.
Whenever there are common questions being asked, check that the information is available online and can be found easily. If parents and students have the right information at the right time, there will be fewer telephone calls or visits for staff to handle, which will allow for a greater focus on those contacts that do require personal attention.
It also is a great way for your senior leadership team to manage problems effectively, by being in control of the authoritative source of information, which can prevent rumour and gossip filling an information vacuum.
Staff can share resources with parents and resources by making documents available online. That can include standard forms about absence or parental consent, guides about student behaviour, and links to information that parents/carers will find useful, for example about helping with homework.
Your website is a great way to recognise the achievements of students. Because there is no real limit on space, there is no need to only celebrate the most newsworthy feats – get the whole school community involved by marking successes large and small.
Work by students can also be published online, as it showcases what the school is doing and highlights the level of work the students are producing, for example create a gallery online of GCSE Art students work or video clips of the entries in the school’s music competition.
Your website can help keep parents informed about what is happening in the school to whatever
extent that they wish.
Keep them up to date about what is going on and they will feel part of the school community. It generates goodwill and helps them stay engaged. By strengthening your existing home-school links, you will create a closer-knit school community, with everyone better informed about what is going on in the school.It also improves the chances of a positive outcome when you request help from parents – if they are already looking at your site they will see it and be more likely to respond.
Prospective students (and their families) and staff
With increased competition for students, and the direct impact each additional student has on your school’s budget, attracting students is more important than ever. That requires your school to be active, and to put time and thought into how you present your school.
Your website will be the first, or one of the first, ways that prospective students and their families come into contact with the school when they are considering their choices. First impressions count.
Your website acts as an easily-updated prospectus and must convey the ethos of your school, and give the impression of a busy, energetic, successful school that is well-run and professionally managed.
Similarly, prospective members of staff will visit your website to get an idea of what your school is like. The more engaging your website, the more attractive your school looks to potential staff.
Just as with prospective parents, Ofsted inspectors will use your website to gain an impression of your school and the range of activities you are engaging in. Your website should paint the vision you have for your school, and reinforce that to pupils, parents and others through the day-to-day activity featured online.
It also gives you a platform on which to showcase those activities that match your Ofsted objectives.
For example, if your school has been assessed and set an objective of improving maths teaching for Key Stage 3, you can use the website to publicise the variety of projects and events that pupils have participated in that support this aim.
In addition, your website helps meet key Ofsted assessment criteria about the school’s contact with parents, carers and others, and is seeking to positively influence what parents and carers think about your school.
Encouraging parents to use your site and send feedback demonstrates that you are reaching out to parents and that you value communication.
For your governors it has two key benefits – it can provide them with information about what is going in the daily life of your school and it also enables them to promote its work. The same is true for the PTA and other specific community groups that are relevant, for example an Academy sponsor, supporting church or other partner organisation.
Journalists will regularly be looking at your school website. They will be looking for basic information
– such as a phone number (and ideally the contact name of the designated member of staff), a location map, a summary of your school about its size, type of school and the age range it caters for – but they will also be looking to see if there is anything of interest happening that they might want to cover. Most media coverage of schools, especially in local and regional media, is very positive and is focused on achievements and good work.
Each of those groups will be looking for different things when they visit your website, but it boils down to two simple things:
• Can they quickly find the information they are looking for?
• If not, can they easily find out who they need to contact, and how they can contact them?