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Created in collaboration with our marketing expert, Daisy Heath-Abbott

 

Maintaining the school website

 

An up-to-date website is not only a statutory obligation, but also a useful marketing tool. It is now more crucial than ever for schools to ensure they have a website that includes the latest school information and updates regarding coronavirus (COVID-19), and provides helpful resources for parents and pupils who are learning remotely. This demonstrates to the community that the safety of pupils, parents and staff is paramount during this time, which can be good way of attracting prospective parents who visit the website.

Schools have had to adapt quickly to becoming more digitally focussed when it comes to interacting with current and prospective parents, especially in the absence of the usual open events. Rather than see this as a disadvantage, schools should embrace the opportunity to reinvent and modernise their traditional methods of communications, including their website.

This article outlines which updates and information regarding coronavirus should be included on your school website, alongside other useful tips to ensure your school continues to stand out against competitors for the next cohort of pupils.

 

Create a dedicated coronavirus updates page

 

If you do not already have a page on your website dedicated to coronavirus updates, you should consider doing so as soon as possible.

Naturally, parents will be anxious and concerned about the restrictions in schools, so providing as much guidance as possible will go a long way in alleviating these concerns. Consider including the following good practice information and resources on your website:

  • Extra-curricular provision – is the school running before- and after-school clubs? If so, how are these operating and what are the safety measures in place?
  • School meals – how are these being provided and what are the restrictions in place? Will there be an impact on pupils in receipt of FSM? How will the school ensure FSM are provided for eligible pupils who have to self-isolate?
  • Transport – what is the school’s stance on transport to and from school? Are parents allowed to come onto the school site or share lifts?
  • PPE – what is the school’s policy regarding PPE for staff, pupils and visitors? Are there exceptions to this rule? What enforcement measures are in place for those who do not follow the rules?
  • Advice and support – how is the school supporting pupils, parents and staff with the changes?
  • Individuals with symptoms – schools should provide a flowchart or simple guidance on what people should do if they have symptoms. This should include information on self-isolation and the policies the school has in place to ensure pupils and staff are kept safe.
  • Contingency plan – what will the school do in the event of a lockdown or school closure? Having a clear infographic will reassure parents that there will be limited academic and social implications for their children if there is a closure.
  • Remote learning resources – these could be included within the contingency plan, but it can be useful to have them listed separately to provide easy access for parents and for pupils learning from home.
  • Risk assessment – include your coronavirus risk assessments and outline the restrictions and procedures in place to keep people safe.
  • Zones and floor plans – if you have bubbles within your school, how are they separated? How do you ensure bubbles do not interact with one another? Are there different areas of the school for each year group? Including a floor plan will help parents understand where their child will be and how they will interact with other pupils in different year groups.
  • FAQS – to ease the burden on office staff, consider including the most commonly asked questions and their answers on your website.
  • Letters to parents – upload any communications that have been sent to parents just in case parents have misplaced them. This protects the school in the event that a parent claims they have not received certain information.
  • Communication – include information on how you will be communicating with parents. How should parents get in touch with the school if they have concerns, or if their child, or someone in their family, has symptoms of coronavirus?

 

Include information about open events

 

Almost every school in the country has changed the way they conduct open events this year. Autumn is usually the time when schools begin preparations to welcome prospective parents and pupils through their doors to showcase their facilities, staff, curriculum and more. Due to restrictions in place, parents typically have to rely solely on a virtual experience. This can be an extremely stressful time for parents and their children, with the lack of contact with their preferred school inevitably resulting in anxiety.

Use this opportunity to push the boundaries of your current marketing means and showcase your school on a greater scope. Virtual open events allow you to access a wider audience and therefore market to individuals who you would never have been able to previously.

Consider including the following information on your website:

  • An open events page – use this to inform individuals about your school’s policy on open events this year and outline what your virtual open event programme will include.
  • Videos of staff and pupils – upload videos of pupils talking about their experience of the school, particularly those who may have just transitioned there. Include interviews of heads of departments and other key members of staff so they can welcome prospective parents and pupils to their department, allowing them to understand more about what life is like within your school. Make sure you follow data protection laws if you are considering this step.
  • Virtual tours – filming a virtual tour will allow parents to follow a journey through your site and explore the facilities. Although a cost will incur, it will help make your school stand out from the crowd and can be used for future years too. Find out more about organising virtual tours in our article here.
  • Pupil-led tours – showing people around the school site may be a useful marketing tool; however, without the staff and pupils, it is almost impossible to portray the ethos and heart of your school. Use a camera or iPad to get pupils to conduct tours of the school, as they would on a normal open evening. Allow parents the chance to virtually see inside classrooms full of pupils and experience everyday life in your school. Make sure you follow data protection laws if you are considering this step.
  • Live Q&A sessions – consider using a platform like Zoom or Google Meet to invite parents to come and discuss their questions. Provided you adhere to data protection regulations, you could record these sessions and upload them onto your school’s website so they are visible to other prospective parents.

Having all of the above information on your website will also give prospective teaching and support staff an insight into your school life.

 

Conduct a website audit

 

Whilst it is important to add new information, it is also vital that you keep current information up-to-date. Make sure you go through your school’s website and amend anything affected by the coronavirus pandemic, e.g. safeguarding information. Conducting an audit will demonstrate to your current and prospective community that you not only take the situation seriously, but that you are committed to ensuring communication methods are as up-to-date to ease any anxiety or confusion.

The following areas are examples of those that may need updating on your website:

  • Enrichment – are you still offering extra-curricular activities? If so, what has changed and how does this affect pupils?
  • Policies – have you had to amend or add any new policies? Even if they are not statutory, it would be good practice to upload or replace any on site.
  • Transition – no doubt transitions this year have changed for all involved, so you should outline what you have done and what the plans are for this year to ensure pupils do not miss out on any support.
  • School trips – will these continue? If not, is there anything else in place for pupils to ensure they continue this aspect of their social development?
  • Uniform – has this changed since the beginning of the pandemic? Are pupils required to come into school wearing their PE kit if they have PE that day, or are your changing rooms still in use? Do pupils have to bring in their own equipment that was not required before, such as hand sanitiser or stationery?

 

What’s next?

 

  • Find out what makes an effective school website in our article.
  • Learn about how you can maximise the use of your school website here.
  • For more information on conducting virtual open events, you can read our dedicated article here.

 

Daisy-Heath Abbott is the Marketing and Communications Officer for the Fulham Cross Academy Trust.