What happens in a student numbers campaign?
We were asked to look at falling pupils numbers at a ‘Good’ (pushing towards Outstanding) Ofsted-rated school. The school had not always had a great reputation, and was in an area with pockets of deprivation.
The numbers situation has been made worse by the relatively recent expansion of another school in the area with a better reputation historically.
Step one, do our homework
We talked to school and trust leaders. We identified that the school had an outstanding leadership team, and was part of a trust with an outstanding reputation.
From our research, it was apparent that a major part of our campaign would be reaching out to more aspirational parents who had been choosing to send their children elsewhere.
We looked at the birth rate
We found that the birth rate had been going down at a faster rate than the rest of the UK.
The figures represented 537 fewer children entering reception at primary schools across the city in September 2023 than a decade before.
The nearby rivals
Looking at the capacity, current numbers and Ofsteds of 16 other schools in the area it was striking that there were only Good-rated schools in the area.
And some of those Good schools were not at capacity. That was not great news for our school.
There was no sugar-coating it – our school had strong competition and supply slightly outstripped demand in the area.
Schools further afield
We looked for ‘markets’ for prospective pupils further afield – identifying a number of schools in the city that were failing.
These demographics help us identify people who are likely to respond to a certain message and are then likely to make the commitment to get their child to a good school that is some distance away every day.
Potential new housing
We looked at house building in the area.
A changing catchment means people living in a particular street suddenly no longer getting into the oversubscribed CofE primary with a great reputation half a mile away because there are 120 new homes a quarter of a mile away from the school.
Parents in that street keep putting that great school top of the list, of course, but if you get in front of these parents with your message then you can be second on that list.
Businesses are worth focusing on because a good school near a major employer becomes an option for someone who works at that firm but lives elsewhere and isn’t happy with their local school.
In our school’s case, we identified the university, a major hospital and a large firm. However, our school did not have wrap-around care, making it a non-starter for parents at the university and hospital.
The school had wrap-around care as an issue beforehand and was planning to bring it in. On our recommendation, this process was speeded up.
The school’s website was not very good. It was a very old off-the-shelf website purchased from a national provider and did not do the job of selling the school to prospective as well as existing parents.
The options were sticking with the site, making changes to the site, getting a new site, or setting up a Pop-up Online Prospectus (POP).
A POP is a micro website that only we offer. It is beautifully designed and only contains the content and messages you want prospective parents to get.
They went with the POP, which was included in the price of our campaign.
An analysis of all social media channels found that the school did not use its Facebook page. But it did use Twitter.
It was important that we be remedied. Facebook really is the way forward when it comes to promoting and marketing a school on social media.