Undeniably, technology is playing an ever-increasing role in almost every element of day-to-day life; so much of what we do now happens online. For schools, the internet has become a necessity, and whether it’s for raising your profile, communicating with current parents, or recruiting new admissions, an effective website offers endless benefits.
In addition, the DfE now requires schools all over the country to have a facility to publish specified content online, along with the staff resource to create and maintain it. This means that schools without a website are obliged to make the necessary arrangements to acquire one, and schools that have one must ensure it meets these regulations.
It would seem, therefore, that there has never been a better time for schools to both evaluate and invest in their websites. Geoff Millington, managing director of PrimarySite shares his top five tips on how schools can ensure their website is being used effectively and complying with DfE and Ofsted requirements.
1) Ensure you are Ofsted ready
Before an inspector goes to a school, they will look very closely at the website to check that it includes the DfE’s statutory information about current curriculum content, a statement on the use of the pupil premium, SEN information and other information provided for parents.
2) Update regularly
Like anything in life, a website needs commitment and attention, and must be updated regularly if it is going to be a worthwhile investment. The task of updating a website is considered an administrative burden by many schools, especially if the system isn’t easy to use. It’s not uncommon for website content to become outdated and that really doesn’t make a good impression on people visiting, who could of course be parents of prospective pupils. There are systems available, such as PrimarySite’s, that make updating web content extremely straightforward – as simple as attaching a file to an email in fact.
3) Involve pupils and parents
It may be that your pupils are too young to update the website themselves, but don’t forget there are other ways of getting them involved. Even just by showing them the website and guiding them through it, they’ll understand its purpose and hopefully take an interest! You could include a gallery of the children or their work which will encourage them to show their mums and dads at home.
Why not introduce blogs or podcasts to the site as well? They’re perfect for involving children, and the feedback we’ve seen for ourselves suggests that pupils really gravitate towards activities like these. Julie Falkinder, teacher at Five Lanes Primary School supports this: “We started using the blogging feature around May this year, and the children loved it right away! They’re so enthusiastic about it and get really excited about using it. We have a ‘Grown Up’ section and a ‘Children’s Blogs’ section on the blog page of our website, which keeps the staff and pupil blogs separate. All of our pupils have their own individual blog which I’ve created for them, and provided them with login details.
If used properly, your website can also play a vital role in parental engagement and act as the perfect communication tool, so make sure you’re providing the information that parents want and need too. Involve them in the process; perhaps by circulating a simple survey asking them to provide feedback on what they’d like to see more or less of on your website?
4) Online communication
Can any of your current communication channels be transferred online to save time and money? Consider using your website to host an electronic newsletter, in place of the paper format. In that scenario, for every copy not being printed, you’ll make a cost saving, while reducing the school’s carbon footprint.
5) Ensure compatibility
Lastly, if I could offer you one other piece of advice, it would be to ensure your website is compatible with trends in website design and technology too – that way, it can always be viewed properly by the people searching for you. An example of this is that all of our websites are now responsive as standard, meaning they will adapt correctly to the size of the display screen. We also thoroughly test our websites in different browsers such Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox to ensure the sites are compatible.