This is unhelpful for all those involved. Parents know they don’t have to choose the first school that offers a place, and children don’t need the pressure of the move to secondary school taking over year 5 as well as year 6 . All that happens is that parents will appear to accept more than one place and schools will then have to run around when the actual deadline dates appear to find people from their waiting list – people who may now be happy with their choice of another school!
Against this background, I was asked a few months ago ‘when do we start recruiting for next year’s (2013) intake?’
My answer is – you started recruiting for that intake in 2005 – or perhaps even earlier! Parents start building an impression of a school from conversations at the primary school gate, from friends, family, community organisations, local newspapers, churches and the behaviour of current pupils on the school bus from an early age! By the time that the formal process starts, most parents will have a short list (you can’t attend THAT many open days after all!) and probably a top choice.
The solution is to start communicating your differences and engaging with the community early. You can’t just wow a parent with an impressive Open Day (which they might not be able to attend). You need to spend more time communicating your successes when they occur – at any time of the year. Involve parents and current students in your marketing, showcasing their achivements. And make sure that you invite parents in for a personal meeting whenever they first contact your school and then keep in regular touch (make sure you get their permission first).
Does this work? Well, it’s the process adopted by people selling cars, houses, and luxury goods – far less valuable products than a good education. When did you ever hear of a car salesperson saying ‘well – you could see the car, but only if you come in two weeks on Monday at 4.30pm and share the test drive with all my other customers?’