Over the past few weeks around the Easter holidays, we’ve seen the following issues raised by the media, Government and politicians….
- ‘Excess salaries’ in school trusts
- Schools putting pressure on teachers to cheat in exams and coursework
- Schools accused of forcing pupils ‘off rolls’
- Gender pay gaps in academy trusts
And the new term will undoubtedly bring more!
What these have in common is that they all threaten the reputation of organisations – and this can have significant knock-on consequences for recruitment, funding and even the existence of trusts, as the demise of the Wakefield City Academies Trust (WCAT) showed.
And it’s not just multi-academy trusts – if you’re a federation, a diocese or a stand-along academy you will have to think about these issues.
So, what can you do? Here are 6 tips to manage and improve your reputation…
- Include reputation in your risk management – be aware of the damage that negative publicity and public frustration can do to your school. It needs to be discussed at governing board level and included in corporate planning.
- Make sure senior managers think ‘what would happen if this was in the local press’ before signing off any policy – and take legal advice if you’re unsure.
- Have a clear media relations response process – schools repeatedly get themselves stuck in reputation issues because they don’t respond quickly to external concerns or make things up that aren’t true. Make sure you have cover during holidays and quick access to senior leaders.
- Monitor the media for issues as well as mentions – trusts are usually good at tracking mentions of their schools, but you also need to be aware of the issues that are being raised by concerned stakeholders. Good sources of information are Education Uncovered and Schools Week.
- Take the pulse of your stakeholders regularly. You might think that parents, teachers and others who matter to the future of your school are happy with the way the school is being run, but it’s important not to be complacent. It’s a good idea to check this on an annual basis – either as part of regular school surveys or through a dedicated poll – using tools such as SurveyMonkey keeps the cost low.
- Keep the positive stories flowing – build up goodwill by sharing the positive things you doing for your community.