How well are Independent Schools communicating through their websites?

Over the past few months, lockdown has meant that we have all relied heavily on technology and the internet. From using video calls to working remotely to shopping on the internet, a strong online presence and messaging have never been more important.

With lockdown and social distancing impacting the ability of independent schools to conduct tours and host open days, the education sector is no different. This presents a huge opportunity for schools to use websites as a shop window to give parents and prospective students a flavour of what life will be like if they choose to enrol at the school.

At insight6 we wanted to find out whether schools were grasping the opportunity to demonstrate what they can do online. In June we asked our researchers to visit the websites of 71 independent schools to see what the experience was like. 

Positively, 72% of the websites offered future virtual events and open days showing that they have moved quickly to change their offering and adapt. As well as providing a new way for prospective students to find out more about the school, 60% had messaging on the website reaching out to current students offering them advice. Not only is this helpful for the current students but it also demonstrates their level of care to parents and prospective students. 

The messages on the homepage of a website can have a big impact on how the reader feels about an institution or business. Words and phrases such as ‘reassure you’ and ‘hope you are safe and well’ help to show empathy and ease any concerns that current or prospective students may have. During these times especially, empathetic messaging on your website homepage is crucial to show that you care. Our research showed that only half of all schools used empathetic language in the messaging on their website homepage. 

insight6 researchers also found that: 

  • 53% of schools had an up to date message on their website about Covid-19 
  • 24% of schools had never updated their LinkedIn profile and a further 24% had not updated it within the last 6 months meaning there was no messaging about Covid-19
  • 0% of the schools had a webchat facility on their website to provide a quick and easy way to communicate with them 

What are parents/prospective students looking for? 

Selecting the right school is a huge decision for parents. When viewing a school under normal circumstances parents will not just be thinking about the academic results, they are also considering the facilities, sports achievements and the values of the community they become part of when their child/children attend.  Although all of these things are important, when a parent financially invests in a school they are investing in their child’s future. They are making a decision on where their child will grow up and spend a vital time in their life. Importantly, parents are investing in a community where they need to feel valued and their children cared for.

The impact of Covid-19 has changed many things, including the way in which schools can offer tours but it has not impacted the importance of this decision for parents which is why the online offering is now vital.

At the end of the research, we asked our team whether based on their experience they would be likely to recommend the school. Overall, only 21% said that they would, however, there are three key things that schools can do now to change this: 

  1. Provide regular updates - this shows that you are constantly looking to adapt and take the best action for your students. It demonstrates to parents that the school is proactive and helps to keep current students in the loop.
  2. Use empathetic language in your messaging - parents and students want and need to feel reassured, especially during these times.
  3. Make communication as easy as possible - It should be very simple for parents, students or prospective students to get in touch should they have an enquiry. If it is hard for them to know who they should contact, or they can’t find the right email address they could choose to look elsewhere instead. 

50% of our researchers said that they would recommend the schools that successfully did all three of these things, highlighting the gap between those that had and those that hadn’t. 

Some very small changes can make a massive difference to your website and the way it makes visitors feel. Having someone with a fresh pair of eyes take a look at your site for the first time through the eyes of a prospective student or parent can be very beneficial and will help to pick up on things that you may not have noticed before when looking at it regularly. 

insight6 is here to support you. If you would like to talk with our experts about the messaging on your website, even if it is an informal chat over a (virtual) cup of coffee, then please leave us a message on the contact form below and we will be in touch.

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