What does the White Paper mean for school marketing and communication?

What does the White Paper mean for school marketing and communication?
5 Apr 2022

On 28th March the UK Government produced the first Education White Paper for six years - setting out its proposals for future laws. Due to devolution of powers, it only covers schools in England but other countries may be influenced by these changes. 

You can read the whole document here - or our summary of the three key marketing and communications issues raised below…

  1. Academy expansion

The paper sets out a big push to get remaining local authority schools (and single-school trusts) into multi-academy trusts of ideally at least ten schools and 7500 pupils by 2030, in order to achieve economies of scale. Local authorities will be given the opportunity to set up their own trusts and there has already been a significant push to move faith schools into trusts.

There are a number of communication challenges here. Existing trusts will have to take on new schools, persuading the stakeholders in them of the benefits of joining that trust. Larger trusts will face challenges around consistency of communication and reputation management across the whole chain, as well internal communication in an organisation where you can’t have whole school meetings in one room!

As well as these internal challenges, larger trusts will mean more competition for both state and independent schools.

We suggest schools and trusts take the following actions…

  • Take reputation seriously – think carefully before expanding or making changes to one school that might affect the reputation of the whole trust.
  • Take a stakeholder management approach* – rather than having all schools communicate with their varied stakeholders, consider centralising relationships with some of these such as future parents and the local community, so that for example schools can focus only on current parents and students.
  • Make sure internal communication is strong – the larger the organisation the more rumours that can spread – and conversely the more people can be missed out of conversations and innovations that they could add value to.
  • Be aware of competitive changes – if a local underperforming school joins a trust it may very quickly become more attractive to your parents and students!

*Marketing Advice for Schools is developing a training programme for marketing leadership and stakeholder management in trusts, along the lines of the course co-written by Simon Hepburn for independent schools body AMCIS. Please get in touch if you’d like to take part in a pilot programme.

  1. Teacher recruitment

The White Paper acknowledges the vital importance of high-quality teachers - and that there are systemic issues in recruitment and retention.

Specific actions suggested in response will include significantly increased pay for early career teachers (including the much trailed £30,000 starting salary from 2023/4), increased pay for early career maths, physics, chemistry, computing teachers in disadvantaged areas and a ‘relocation premium’ to help with visas and other costs of international recruitment.

We suggest schools take the following actions…

  • Be aware of these opportunities and make it clear that you’re offering them, but also don’t give the impression that extra money  is ‘danger money’ – show how your school is also tackling issues such as behaviour and workload.
  • Improve networking with initial teacher training providers
  • Take a long-term approach to teacher recruitment and retention – it’s not going to improve overnight!

For more advice, read our book ‘Recruiting Teachers’

  1. Parent communication

As part of the overall push to improve the performance of children in external examinations there is a commitment to focus on those falling behind and to inform parents about this process and the support provided.

Of course, most schools are aware of the importance not just of informing parents but of engaging them in the teaching and learning process.

We suggest schools take the following actions…

  • Listen to parents – so you know how they best want to be communicated with, what they think of the help offered by the school and what other ideas they have!
  • Let parents know what you want them to do in a way they will understand – for example invite them into workshops or share videos explaining ideas in core subjects rather than sending complex documents written in jargon.