Choosing a school forced me into my size 5 customer shoes with a few website hurdles

The bags and coats a Staffordshire school's reception class are all hung up nicely.

Choosing a school forced me into my size 5 customer shoes with a few website hurdles

It’s come to that time where as a parent I need to start looking at schools.

I live in an area where I didn’t go to school and, to add more complexity, we want to move home to a new area before our daughter starts school next September.

This means I have no recommendations for Little Satu’s school, and she will have to leave her nursery friends behind.

On to the world wide web, where I headed to a few websites and searched, and searched.

Maybe controversially, I stayed away from Ofsted ratings as I wanted to make a decision based on my own feelings not just the paperwork.

Our criteria questions were:

  • How would Little Satu* fit in?
  • What values would she be taught?
  • How do they feel about behaviour charts?
  • Do they have some outdoor space?
  • What is their stance on non-traditional families?
  • How do they communicate to us as parents?
  • What is the wrap-around care like?


What did I learn from looking on the school websites?

The answer is not a lot if I am honest – I got a bit bored and switched off.

I can tell you what multi-academy trust a school is part of, what their uniform policy is and the curriculum – but I failed to find out what really drives them as a school and makes them different to the one down the road.

In all honesty, the school websites were a bit like trying to find the relevant pages of an A4 lever-arch folder that has collapsed and all the poly pockets have spread over the floor.

I clicked on a whole load of links and tried to piece together all of the information but it didn’t really answer my questions.


Information overload

Clients who have had the pleasure of working with TukTuk Creative Marketing will know I absolutely love websites being used as a business tool.

Websites used as a business tool allow you to give an amazing resource to your customers.

Think of all those questions you have to answer so frequently, or the documents you have to keep up to date. Your website can play such a vital part in handling this sort of information and can go on to influence potential customers to see the value that your business adds.

However, I think the schools I looked at may be tipping the 90% business tool and only 10% marketing resource breakdown.


Splitting a website up into chapters

With hundreds of pages it is easy to see how overwhelming a website sitemap could be for a school.

However, if you treat it like an offline resource, it can simplify the problem so well.

Think of a book or encyclopaedia – if the web pages were all divided up into chapters and sub-sections the navigation would be streamlined to just the key topics and sections.

Where a website might list every year’s curriculum in the top navigation – it may be condensed into ‘curriculum’ and then direct users from that landing page.

By reducing hundreds of pages into a simple navigation structure, much like a book and its chapters, school websites could make way for smiling happy little people and their superb surroundings.


Where does a school really want visitors to go on their website?

While policies and procedures may be really important to some parents, I am sure nine times out of 10 parents only need these when they have an issue.

Surely, good news sells when it comes to schools, such as newsletters, happy faces, sports days, children covered from head to toe in paint etc.

A simple top navigation header of ‘Why Choose Us’ would have made my visits so much easier.


Converting what happens on a school tour into the digital space

In an ideal world every school would have the budget for an amazing virtual tour or a video prospectus.

But, for those not in an ideal world, a good starting point is to think about what your school says and does when showing visitors or prospective parents around and convert this into the digital space.

This could be as simple as a photo gallery and where the school’s passions lie, followed by a lovely button that says, ‘Book a visit to our school’.


Seeing past the Ofsted

Ultimately, it was the school walk around that sold it for us.

As well as showing us around the school, the teacher explained how they make time for an hour’s yoga every week, how they communicate with parents, how they can help your child choose the dinner you really want them to have and if issues do arise how they would likely handle them.

It was only because I was on a tour of the school, and another parent’s due diligence, that I realised the school I was falling in love ‘required improvement’.

But, because I had walked in through the doors and the teachers had made me feel welcome, I left with a feeling in my gut that the Ofsted result seven years ago was not to cloud my judgement.


But how many parents never even book that visit because Ofsted is where it’s at?

What does your school’s website say to new parents? Book in for a chat to see if you can make some simple changes to your website before the January 2022 deadline.