Staff retention is a big issue for school leaders, and surveys show that a negative perception of the teaching profession is affecting the number of graduates going into teaching. So, how do you make your school standout so as to attract – and retain – the best teachers? In the past it may have been enough to have a Good or Outstanding Ofsted mark but now, as in most businesses, you need to do something different to make people want to work for you.
When you hear people say that they work for a good company it is often based on the level of benefits the company offers. For schools, these could include:
These benefits all cost money but you have to weigh this up against staff absences, people off on long-term sick and the time and effort it takes to fill an empty post, as well as the cost to advertise it. Offering these extra incentives could put you way out in front when compared to a competitor.
Marketing your school and showcasing your work in the wider community is vital. It also has massive benefits when it comes to seeking sponsorship from potential business partners. At the end of the day you are a business, whether you like it or not, it’s just that you offer
a different kind of service, and your children are your product.
Seeing press articles with happy, smiling children doing innovative and inspiring things will set you apart from others when potential staff are doing their research to see what sort of school you are. And recognising that you are a successful, forward-thinking school with a healthy budget that is further supplemented by fundraising and sponsorship should seal the deal!
So when I am asked ‘should schools really run as a business?’ the answer is always a very simple but resounding ‘Yes!’ If you don’t start to adopt basic business practices then you are at risk.
Shout about it!
How much time you dedicate to publicity will be different for every individual and you will find that there is a natural flow with times when you have lots to shout about and others when there is very little.
I try to get at least two articles a month published. If I have two or even three articles in one week I save one until the following week. Most articles are not time sensitive and by putting that your school ‘recently’ had a special visitor or something similar it still works.
Generally speaking I would spend no more than two to three hours a month on press and around one to two hours on social media. Have a format and template that you use with all of your contacts on one list. Simply cut and paste your message and then cut, paste and blind copy all of your contacts into an email with the article and photos attached.
Always attach a photo, because, as the old saying goes, ‘a picture paints a thousand words’. Don’t try to catch an action shot, but stage it so it looks right – and always use a high-resolution camera.
The first port of call is always the local press, which includes the free papers and magazines. These articles are usually published online as well as in print so can also be put on your school website – start a news page if you don’t already have one.
I also include the Chamber of Commerce monthly magazine. This is very important to attract businesses. Local radio stations are also a good source of publicity as they are always looking for local interest stories.
Next is social media – Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn – to update all of your business contacts and to attract new ones. But don’t reinvent the wheel; use the links on published articles to share on social media sites. If there isn’t one then just click on the URL at the top of the page and, you guessed it, cut
and paste onto the new page.
TIP Be specific with your requests – give a full breakdown of what you need as if they can’t afford all of it they may buy some. Tell them how it will be used and the impact it will have, but don’t use jargon. Just because you understand jargon and acronyms doesn’t mean your sponsor will.
As a school we have gone from having little or no press presence to having regular articles in lots of the local papers and magazines, and this has led to businesses approaching us to work with us.
I have several sponsors that get involved with us in various projects year on year. They tweet about it, take photos and submit their own stories to the press and their own newsletters. It also helps to maintain the business relationship with existing sponsors as the more people see positive press involving them the more they use them for goods and services. It has also made my job easier in attracting new sponsors as they can see our track record and know that by working with us will get them good, positive press.
For example, following a story about working with children with Special Educational Needs (SEN) I was approach by a local company and asked if I needed anything.
I asked the head of Key Stage 1 as I knew they wanted some Phonics equipment, and I then put together a nice email explaining what we needed and how it would be used, and what impact it would have on the children. They not only came back and said yes, they tripled their contribution and now donate £5,000 per annum! Building positive lasting relationships with the press is just as important as building relationships with businesses. You need then to publish your articles, after all.
Get to know your local journalist, call them and speak to them, and tell them what you have planned and ask if it is of interest. Ask them what they want as news and see if you can help them. Email is great but it’s always worth taking time to call your contacts once a month
and keep them updated.
So, get your business head on, set the right scene, and get potential staff to approach you, choose you and stay with you.
Howard Rose is Director of Funding and Publicity at Balsall Common Primary School. He secures grants, sponsorship and support from businesses to enhance teaching and learning. In 2015, he won a Chambers of Commerce Education and Business Partnership Award.
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