Do you know what your school’s admissions journey is really like for families? Can you honestly say you know how well your admissions processes and relationships positively or negatively affect pupil recruitment?
The only way to know for sure is to ask those who have experienced it themselves, who will fall broadly into two groups:
- Current families: particularly those who have joined the school in the last 12 months.
- Non-buyers: those who considered your school but in the end, went elsewhere.
Firstly, current families, especially those who joined recently, will have clear memories of their admissions journey. Positive moments will stand out – the warmth of the conversation they had with the Head, the confidence and enthusiasm of the pupil who showed them around, the helpful member of staff who went out of their way to call them back to answer a specific query about Learning Support provision.
Similarly, negative moments will also loom large in the memory. Anything that marred their expectations or experience in any way – the Receptionist who carried on with a long phone call and kept the prospective family waiting, the flaking paint along the corridors, the neglected email query or the lost report. By focussing on the actual experiences of families who have recently been on the receiving end of your admissions process, you will learn what is working well and not so well, and perhaps highlight the golden nuggets that make the crucial difference at decision time. This research can be carried out by anonymous surveys or inviting parents to focus group sessions led by a third party; often a two-pronged approach is most revealing.
“The only way to know for sure [what’s working or not is to ask those [parents] who’ve experienced it themselves.”
Secondly, non-buyers: contacting this audience can be invaluable…finding out why they considered your school in the first place, yet in the end decided to go elsewhere. Generally, engaging with this audience will involve parents being contacted by a third party research/marketing company (parents will be more honest and open if they are not talking directly to the school in person, especially if anonymity is assured). The contact is usually made by telephone, to ask a short series of questions designed to find out what their experience of your school’s admissions process was like, from first enquiry to withdrawal from the process.
Engagement with non-buyers sometimes reveals that there is little the school could have done to have won them over. The family chose single-sex education when you are co-ed for example, or little Daisy won a Scholarship to play lacrosse – a sport which your school has never offered. It can be the combination of a number of smaller aspects however which sway parents elsewhere. From the thoughtless Receptionist who didn’t acknowledge the visitors’ presence, to the pupils they met, to the fabric of the building…and anything in between. Where such things fall outside the remit of Admissions, it’s important to ensure they are brought to the attention of the Head or appropriate department to put proper processes around these things in place!
So, in summary, it’s time to get real; time to ask yourselves honestly. Do you truly know what is and isn’t working in your admissions process. (The very definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over again and expect a different result). So, if the answer to that question is no…it’s time to start engaging with those parents!
If you need help with any aspect of Pupil Recruitment and/or Retention, simply get in touch ! We’re more than happy to explain how our work helps schools to get results that impact positively on their school revenue.
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The Stickman Consultancy