But today's school leaders don't have the luxury to take this moral high ground. All schools, whether state or independent are competing against each other. Private schools that fail to attract enough income will close (or in some cases convert to free schools); state schools that don't out-perform their peers will be shown up in league tables and forced to convert to academies; new free schools cannot expect to be supported if they are not recruiting new pupils. In this environment it's hardly a surprise that the Education Select Committee found that schools aren't helping each other.
The first step to thriving in a competitive environment is to work out how you are different to other schools. This allows you to market yourself on your strengths - and to identify the areas that are seen as weaknesses. How do you do this? Here's a quick and easy process to get you started:
1. Work out who your competitors are. List up to 10 schools that you know parents consider as alternatives. If you're not sure, make sure you ask your current parents on a regular basis. Remember that there are probably different competitors for different stages of your school - if you have a Sixth Form for example.
2. Set up your research. Create up a table (in Excel or just on paper) and against each school create three headings - Strengths. Reasons to Choose [my school] and Marketing Thoughts.
3. Analyse strengths. Look at the competitive school websites (and other marketing material) and write down what they are projecting as their strengths - examples would be academic progress, facilities, pastoral support or wider student development. Make a note of fees charged if the school is private.
4. Create your response. In the next column write down the key messages you would use to persuade prospective parents not to go to that school.
5. Learn from competitors. In the final column write down anything that has impressed you about how these schools market themselves - imitation is the sincerest form of flattery!
Once you have completed your analysis you can then audit your own marketing messages and material and the way you 'sell' your school. If there are different messages for different schools, make sure that you're asking prospective parents which other schools they are considering at an early stage - and adapt your messages accordingly.
Please leave any other tips for new school marketers below.