A few years ago, a school in Yorkshire woke up to find that its Google entry had apparently been replaced by one for a prison. I therefore wasn’t surprised to find a similar thing had happened to a school in London I was talking to a few weeks ago – the main picture in their Google entry had become a prison as well...
You might hope that Google would put more effort into checking these entries, but they are almost entirely automated and rely on the input of volunteers and feedback from organisations. And of course the same people making these entries and changing these photographs are also free to leave their thoughts on social media such as Facebook as well as many other platforms.
It’s a huge challenge for schools to monitor this, but it can be very important. For example, in the current teacher recruitment crisis, I looked at three of the largest multi-academy trusts on the recruitment review site Glassdoor. I have to say the reviews reflected fairly well what I’ve heard about working for them…
· Trust 1 – 79 reviews; overall rating 2.9/5; 40% approval of CEO
· Trust 2 – 23 reviews; overall rating 3.3/5; 15% approval of CEO
· Trust 3 – 39 reviews; overall rating 3.8/5; 87% approval of CEO
Which would you prefer to work for?
What can you do about reviews?
1. Find them. I’ve listed a few sites below, but you should also regularly ‘Google’ your school to find new ones.
· Social media sites with reviews – Facebook, YouTube
· School review sites - School Parrot, The School Report
· Recruitment sites with reviews – Glassdoor, Indeed
2. Check reviews are fair and legal. It’s not that easy to remove reviews but all sites have basic rules that posts must follow. So for example if a post is racially abusive or is inciting violence it should be flagged up and will be removed very quickly. On sites such as Google you can also report reviews that are not relevant and hope the site agrees!.
3. Engage with reviewers. You may recognise some reviewers – perhaps current or former parents or students. If you approach them and talk about their issues you may be able to get them to remove or amend the reviews – in some cases, they may not have been aware that they were so important or publicly visible. Some sites also offer the alternative option of a reply where you can put your point of view.
4. Encourage positive reviews. The best way of overcoming negative reviews is to have lots of positive ones. You can encourage this by asking parents in particular to give positive feedback – leaving events in the summer term are a good time and place to do this!
5. Act on feedback. It's not easy to read negative things about your school but you need to ask yourself if there is a grain of truth in what you read, especially if it's repeated. And then you might want to change things!