Here’re the most important things you can do to guarantee you’re ready for the New Year.
1. Plan for the Year ahead
Content is the most important thing to any website, in any sector. Schools and colleges are in a better position to make their content work harder for them than most organisations, simply because it’s comparatively easy for you to generate it than most"Posting a piece just once a week will keep your website up-to-date with engaging content." organisations.
You have lots going on in school and so writing a piece, just once or twice a week, and posting it to the News section on your website will keep your website up-to-date with relevant, engaging content that not only will keep users coming back; it will also impress OFSTED, will give prospective parents a feel for your school community and will engage those who are already a part of your school.
Content is only going to become more and more important over the next few years, and so planning ahead a little bit will make things so much easier.
2. Make sure your website is OFSTED compliant (boring but necessary)
There are lots of checklists available to help you make sure your website is fully compliant with OFSTED’s requirements, which change at least once a year. Now is a great time to get on top of it, but watch out - it’s likely that they’ll change it again over summer.
Why not prepare some time for yourself or a member of staff in the new school year to get on top of this? Some reports / checklists are better than others - look out for the ones that offer more than just a basic checklist to really nail it.
3. Update your staff and governors pages
It seems this year to be more true than ever, but this is clearly a key time of year for changes to your staff and governor teams. Get your website updated with the new team so everyone in your new school community knows of the changes as soon as possible.
Adding a little bit of information, such as a photo and maybe a pen-sketch for each member of staff (and of course your governors) will bring a little bit of life to what can often be a slightly boring page. It will also engage your community well because they can put a face to a name much more easily.
4. Update your Term Dates page
Believe it or not, the Term Dates page on your website is mostly likely the most viewed page. On some sites it’s viewed as many as four times as any other page! It’s worth getting it right.
Folks are planning holidays further and further in advance, and so it’s really helpful to display as far in advance as you can - ideally two full school years. Many schools now offer this information and it’s an important page to get right for your users.
TOP TIP: It’s really important to put the dates as quite bland text in this page. Expecting users to download a pdf file or figure out how to use a calendar is not good practice. They’re fine as a back up, but not as the primary method of accessing this information.
5. Get students involved!
More and more schools are using systems that enable them to get students, and of course more and more teachers, involved in writing content for their school websites. Why not encourage staff and students alike to contribute blog content to your website (make sure you have a system that lets you approve the content before it goes live!)?
Writing a piece before and / or after summer about anything"Why not encourage staff and students alike to contribute blog content?" that they have enjoyed during the holidays is a great way to kick start getting them involved.
You’ll empower students to write about what interests them, prospective parents will be thoroughly engaged, current families will enjoy the engagement of the wider community and again, if OFSTED decide to appear, you’ve got a great bank of interesting content that gives a brilliant picture of enrichment around the school environment.
Notice that this is all about content, content, content. As I mentioned, it is only going to get more important over the coming months and years. Schools will need to be considering how they present content online to compete with each other and meet OFSTED’s ever-increasing demands. It will also open up additional opportunities to the most progressive schools as they evolve and engage with more advanced channels of marketing, so it’s best to get into this mindset as soon as possible.
Start by having a play with your site and get as far as you can. Talk to your site designer if you need help and make sure that your site is fully responsive so that every site visitor can use your website no matter what device they use but most importantly …
… have a brilliant Summer!
What do you insist on having on your school’s website? Let us know below!