Marketing your school’s image and getting the right message across

Colin Wells

Colin Wells has been involved in the sign industry for the past 14 years. Born and educated in north London, he owned a leading sign company in one of the franchised groups for many years before leaving to set up Elementary Signs Ltd and to specialise in providing signs to the Education sector and Local Authorities. “ Service quality and Build Quality are so important nowadays. Where budgets are tight and where our products are on busy sites where children and young people are, safety, appearance and value for money are extremely important” says Colin Wells. “We aim to make buying Signs, Notice Boards and Banners for your school, as easy and worry free as possible”. “We have an excellent team of extremely high ability here who enjoy what they do, it makes us what we are. I stand on the shoulders of very capable people”.

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With the advent of Marketing Awareness and the increase in the number of schools who now have Marketing Managers or Marketing Departments, Headteachers are becoming increasingly aware of the power of marketing at many levels: how good marketing can effect how a school is perceived and, in many cases, how this affects pupil numbers.


There are many ways that a school's image can be improved and school signage is certainly one of them. School signage has come a long way in the last 10 years, both in style and design. It now plays an integral role in marketing the school and often sets the tone of first impressions that visitors, parents, staff and pupils form about the school.

Good signs will achieve many things: building that first impression of the quality of the school at the school gate; providing clear and easy direction around the campus; assist with traffic management; advertise special events. Whatever the venue, it is always a pleasure to easily move around a large site where good, clear and concise signs have been well thought out; they become part of the experience. They are simply there, just where you need them.

When planning new signs for a school, there are basic requirements to take into account and it is usually the simplest approach that provides the best solutions. Many schools have similar requirements, however, every school is different and so the first and most important part is to decide on the right supplier. The criteria is simple, a supplier providing signs to schools must have:

  1. Experience in working with schools and the knowledge to understand the school working environment.
  2. A good up to date knowledge of the sign industry and what suitable materials and designs are available that will work on the school campus.
  3. An understanding that the pupils’ and their safety come first, and that most expensive doesn’t necessarily mean ‘the best’.

Next on the list is design and continuity. Signs are very similar to a school uniform. The environment, the buildings, the message and use are all different and will change depending on the sign use and location. Colours should be consistent right through. Use of the school colours will re-enforce the branding - we get used to looking for signs if they are all in the same colour scheme.

The scheme design should start with the main sign, usually at the gates. The rule here is to keep it simple - little is more. This means: school name and logo, tag line(s), telephone number and web site. That’s it. Unless it is aimed at early years, you must resist the temptation to add several colours or images. So much can be done with the school colours and font, the shape of the panel, posts behind or to the panel ends, finials on the posts. An extra slim panel below with other information such as headteacher’s name. Throughout industry, all of the successful companies don’t have masses of information on their signage. Similarly in education, the successful schools, such as Benenden School, Kings School Ely, Reading Blue Coat School and many others, keep their signs simple, easy to understand and effective.

Other rules include: direct traffic with ordinary road signs away from pupil areas; always ask visitors to report to the school office and sign the path to the office; have a sign at every entrance to the site but with the largest at the main school entrance; name buildings then refer to them by name; think about temporary signs and/or banners for open evenings or special events (stake signs or small pavement signs are ideal for this).

Lastly, try to think how a visitor would think on their first visit and by actually walking the site and traffic routes. Consider the type of visitor: are they attending a concert in the hall, meeting a member of staff or are they just delivering stationery. If necessary, ask for a site visit from your chosen supplier.

It might seem a mammoth task when you start out but let's take a leaf from our own book and do the same as when we teach our children: break it down into sections and then divide it up into small chunks.

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