Education specialist Julia Walton asks if school websites are really communicating to the whole community and offers five ideas to help revitalise your ‘shop window’
The last three months have pushed fresh and frequent demands on schools.
Your teams have stood up to the challenges but is your school website meeting the needs of every audience?
Most days I’m navigating school websites, both as a parent and a school communications partner. As a parent it’s often to find the last letter, news item or to pay a bill and for the schools I work with I want to dig out contact details, look up staff or get a sense of what kind of school I might be visiting.
While most activities on the school calendar for the summer term have been paused Local Voice Media have put a fresh pair of eyes on some school websites to assess if they are meeting the needs of their audiences.
Are you effectively communicating in a way that is accessible for families, potential staff, your local community and partner organisations? Will most visitors find what they need quickly in the place they would expect to find it?
Your analytics function is a good place to start. I want to see where your visitors go, how long they stay and if there are popular days for visits. Some pages that had a lot of time and effort go into creating them may not see the light of day. Analytics might tell you that when you post new jobs, make demands for payment or make class changes your site is under more scrutiny.
A commonality between school websites is that they are all so different. Some are clearly part of a more corporate multi-academy trust operation and others have an individual and independent feel.
Neither approach is wrong but this is what I’ve found can help schools refresh the site they have:
- Eliminate a corporate voice and vague promises. I think most parents expect their school to treat children as individuals, have high expectations and an exciting curriculum. Make your headteacher’s welcome meaningful and short.
- Cut pages. If pages have not had content added for a long time perhaps it is time they were retired. An enthusiastic member of staff might have left now leaving a void for content in a particular section. Most sites allow you to archive content. A strategic overview will help cut overload.
- Does it make sense? Enlist a non-teacher friend to find a couple of important things about your school. You’ll soon find out if it could be organised in a more instinctive way.
- The important checklist. There is lots of available guidance for Ofsted website requirements. I’ve used e4education’s checklist https://www.e4education.co.uk/dfe-checklist-academies-free-schools-and-colleges
- Think pictures. Does your home page feature students who have long left your classrooms? While it isn’t a good time for a photoshoot you could make it a priority for next year.
- Careers not vacancies. Make the most of teachers or support staff who have built a successful career by featuring short case studies. This could be written or filmed and show what is possible. I would look for a mix of staff including NQTs and those who have made a career move.