Engaging with parents & carers
“Who is my audience?” This is the first question that should be asked in marketing planning.
There a few different demographic groups you should be targeting in education marketing, but the main audience for your day-to-day communication is PARENTS.
Engaging with parents and carers should be front of mind when it comes to a school or college’s marketing strategy, as those parents and carers are the ones who will (hopefully!) be encouraging the students’ educational journeys from start to finish.
Research by the Department of Education has shown that educational failure increases with lack of parental interest. Without it, we see more behavioural problems, lower self-esteem and increased disengagement.
So how does a school start to engage with parents? It’s a daily thing - many families work full time so use childminders, breakfast and after school clubs and don’t get to the school on a regular basis, so the key is to have an approach that combines a number of channels, to keep parents involved and engaged with your school.
1) Ask for their input
Have regular questionnaires sent to parents to ask them to feedback on your school - the activities, the safety, the systems, the teaching, everything. Remember that new parents will join your school every year and will want to have a voice. Thank parents for their input and communicate any changes planned around the feedback. Do show that you have taken on board the comments.
2) Meet and greet
Communication is a face-to-face thing. If it is practical for your school, have senior members of staff greeting parents and children as they arrive every day. By showing that you are there on time, in the cold and wet, you demonstrate that you are all one team and lead by example. Ivory towers do not work in the education system.
3) Keep the news coming
Have a school newsletter. Make it regular and ensure it is online, emailed and if desired by parents, printed and popped in bookbags. Most parents these days prefer emailed correspondence but this can be something that is addressed in your feedback survey. Ensure children from all year groups are included (with permissions of course).
4) Meet the Parents
Parents’ evenings are a fantastic opportunity for parents and teachers to meet but can often feel rushed - for all parties. As well as a parents’ evening (at the start of the school year), do consider open evenings when children can bring their parents or carers into the school to look around their classroom.
5) Use technology
As well as email, Twitter and Facebook, which should all be used on a regular basis to share good news, images and provide information, there are a range of parent communication apps which allow teachers to post images / school updates so that families can be regularly updated on what is going on during the school day. Try ClassDojo or Pupil Asset - again, ask parents if they want to use an app and if the school decides not to use one (they’re not for everyone), then communicate why.
The PTA should operate as an extension of the school, working alongside staff to raise funds. As it involves everyone giving up their free time, it is essential that thanks and feedback should be given from ‘official’ school communication. It helps to encourage more involvement, which at the end of the day, raises funds for equipment.
7) Keep it personal – and consistent
A small gesture like a communication book, in which teachers and parents / carers can send notes to one another, can help families stay engaged. If they are in full time work, there may often be a feeling of guilt on the part of the parents and it helps them stay involved and in touch.
8) Keep it personal
With all external marketing, ensure the message remains about the students. The success of the school a key message of course, but remember, some parents have other priorities. They want happy, confident children who look forward to going to school. By demonstrating the importance of soft skills as well as good exam results, your school can help reassure families that they have made the right school choice on every level.
It’s all about communication. After all, a combined approach is the key to success.