Making the grade with your school website

Ian Richardson

Ian is Product Director at Schudio who specialise in developing unified online technology to help schools and colleges communicate and engage their community effectively, and who are currently working with over 200 schools in the UK. He spends a lot of time working with school leaders to establish products and strategy which dramatically improve the way schools communicate with the outside world.

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Your website has become the first port of call for everyone interested in engaging with with your school. It is true of parents who will be looking for information that reassures them that yours is the school for their son or daughter. Your website is your best marketing tool to this audience.

"The statutory content list is generally centred around the policies and reports that Ofsted inspectors are looking to see."

It is true, too, of current pupils and their parents as the first place to look for any information they need, be that term dates, latest news, homework details or your phone number. Your website is your most effective tool to keep your school community informed. It is also true of prospective staff who are looking at your school as the place they may want develop their career. Your website is the best place to present the ethos, values and goals of your school to the best applicants.

Finally, it is true of Ofsted when they are due to carry out an inspection. Inspectors will look at your school website before they visit and they are expecting to see certain information that is easy to find and easy to read. Your school website is the best and only option to get this right. Schools have can be failed by Ofsted if they do not meet the basic, minimum requirements clearly set by the DfE on their website.

How do you make sure you meet the minimum?

A number of websites offer up-to-date checklists to make sure that you are meeting the minimum requirements set by Ofsted and of course the source is always the DfE website. The statutory content list is generally centred around the policies and reports that inspectors are looking to see when they look at your site. However, there are a few curve balls in there about content such as point-of-contact, and they have started to make more of an issue of the way in which you present the information.

How do you go beyond the minimum?

This is where a dedicated staff and a good system become really important. There are a number of lists circulating at the moment about what Ofsted like to see rather than what you are legally required to do. The lists are based on experience and hearsay but most are pretty good indications of what is a good idea to include on your site.

A good thing to bear in mind is that if you are able to cover as many bases as possible then you will be heading in the right direction. Sadly, most of us don’t have an unlimited amount of time to keep adding more and more features to our websites and so choosing some of the best options is a good idea for most people.

Here are just a couple of ideas that will make a difference to how your website is presented to everyone who visits your website and so put them right at the top of the list.

Add a nice, warm welcome from the headteacher

Whomever is visiting your website, giving them a feel for what your school is about, written by the person who they look to as the school leader is the single best way to make a big difference to your school website. If you’re the head, write it personally from yourself. If you’re not the head, get the head to write it! Include a photo and make sure it isn’t too formal.

Share your ethos, values, goals and how you see the students and staff you work with to give a rich picture of life at your school.

Add social content

The most important way to support your fabulously up-to-date website is to share your content socially. By sharing your news on Twitter and Facebook etc (Twitter is definitely #1 for schools) you are offering content and important news to the audience in a way they want to access it.

If you go further and engage your community through the likes of Twitter; sharing their news when they Tweet, liking relevant, appropriate content and congratulating students on their achievements through social media then you can demonstrate to inspectors that you are actively meeting your audience where they’re at.

Do you have any tips to add? Share them below!

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