In the last few years it has been a constant struggle to ensure I have enough pupils on roll to match our PAN and therefore our staffing structure. I often get asked why I spend time marketing my school and the answer boils down to bums on seats! It sometimes feels like one of the most important roles I need to undertake is that of marketer and school promoter!
I have often battled with this concept and wondered whether it was right to spend time and potentially money on marketing but when you think that the majority of your income comes from pupils choosing your school to attend, it really is a no brainer in my eyes.
As leaders we cannot decide NOT to market and promote our schools and we need to see it as an essential part of our role.
In my previous school we ‘owed’ around £50 K to the local authority and had pupil numbers well below PAN with less than 80 on roll. Over three years we managed to increase this to over 150 pupils and obviously this improved both opportunities and standard of education for all and transformed our budget.
Year on year we face a similar problem with fluctuating birth rates and competition in our local area generally caused by OFSTED gradings and changes to housing. With around £3000 for every child, losing pupils has a massive impact.
So how can you attract more pupils? How DO you change perceptions and increase your number on roll? How do you market your school effectively?
I don’t have all the answers but I do have a few ideas which may help:
- Work out what your unique selling point is as a school – what makes you different to other schools (note that I say different and not better, there is a fine line in promoting your school and being negative about others). Make sure your website reflects this.
- Create some brochures so that you can give them to prospective parents and staff- the more professional the better. I got a student to create ours and then we had them printed cheaply- less than £300 for 250 leaflets.
- Get a virtual tour done for your school- parents like to see inside a school but don’t always have the time to come to an open day-again you can do these yourself very cheaply and use free QR code makers for parents to download.
- Get yourself in the local papers as often as you can! I find that writing my own article with photos and sending it to them works really well- I make it as easy as possible for them to put in a good news story. NEVER be too busy to answer the phone when it’s a local news story as they can do so much for your school if you get them on side.
- Celebrate and advertise all the great things you do on social media- make sure you choose the right platform and ensure it is regularly updated- we use twitter, Instagram and facebook to make sure we appeal to different groups. It helps that we have different people who are responsible for each different platform.
- Go over PAN in those classes where you feel you can- my staff are very clear that having a couple more children in their class is manageable given the funding that this brings. This may be controversial but given that we inevitably end up doing this anyway due to appeals I have found it is a really good strategy where you have the capacity. (obviously only in Key Stage 2)
- Open your doors as often as you can- not something we could do during COVID but we found that increasing the number of opportunities for parents to attend events or open days really increased our numbers- word soon spreads if you are holding community and family events. We tend to work with local charities and have a member of staff who does this- our community leader -and we give her time to do this.
- Spend time writing bids and grants- not only will you get free advertising if you are successful, you can add money to your budget to do things you would not otherwise be able to afford. This in turn attracts more pupils, but don’t make the mistake of asking someone to do it as an addition to their already busy life. You need to give dedicated time for this.
So … whilst making money doesn’t seem to be on any job descritpino for a headteacher it is becoming a key part of our role and one that I think we need to give time to , without feeling we are not doing what we should be doing.
We SHOULD be ensuring we have enough money to do the things we want to do for our children and securing extra pupils means we are one step closer to this.