Just HAVE to tell you about my recent Open Day experience at two local schools, and how this reaffirmed my conviction that it is ABSOLUTELY ESSENTIAL for a school to create the WOW for prospective parents at Open Days.
For once, I was attending these events without my professional ‘school marketing’ hat on, and instead, there as a prospective parent for our son, pictured with his little sister. (Our son is due to move up to secondary school in September 2019, so we’re currently living the 11+ frenzy ahead of the entrance exams in September!).
Anyway, to say my experience at the two Open Days was different, is quite possibly the understatement of the academic year. The marked difference truly wasn’t anticipated by either us as parents, or indeed by our son. Yet it was definitely there, and in large doses too.
The reason it took us by surprise, was that, in all honesty, the two schools should have been on a level playing field. They are both secondary schools, both in our local area, both have selective intake, both with a great reputation, and on that Open Day, both with the potential to impress a heaving room full of prospective families!
So what was so different I hear you cry?
I’ll attempt to summarise the main differences below:
School number 1:
School number 1 went something like this….
The Headteacher stood up to deliver his much anticipated speech, and instantly announced that he wasn’t going to share any information about the school. He cited the example of academic results – as that, he said, could all be found on the school website. Instead, he proceeded to introduce select pupils to said heaving room full of prospective families, whom, he claimed, were much better placed to talk about the school and what it offers.
The pupils did a great job but I beg to differ with the Headteacher. In the first instance, I WANTED to hear about the school from HIS perspective. I WANTED to hear what the school could offer our son – what he would gain from attending that school vs. the rival school down the road. I WANTED to hear information such as academic results. And yes, even though I could research this myself, I wanted to hear HIS view of them…the leader’s view of the school.
“To say my experience at the two Open Days was different, is quite possibly the understatement of the academic year.”
Afterwards, parents were left to their own devices to wander around the school too, with disappointingly too few ‘tour guides’ on hand to help parents. Furthermore, classrooms felt void of purpose…we kind of just wandered aimlessly through them…unsure of what classroom we were in, or what we were supposed to be looking at.
School number 2:
It felt different as soon as we stepped onto the school grounds…everywhere and everyone smart and tidy, parents being welcomed to the school, teachers engaging in conversation and interested in our son, vibrant classroom demonstrations, an organised pupil line up ready to take parents around the school…and more. And this is all before the Headteacher gave his speech!
And what a speech. Tingles down my spine moment. Themed into 4 key values, the Head clearly outlined what the school stands for. He conveyed – with a quiet, caring and respectful, but no-nonsense confidence – that his school knows their pupils, and how to get the best out of each and every one.
“The Head clearly outlined what the school stands for…[and] that his school knows their pupils, and how to get the best out of each and every one.”
In a similar fashion to the Head of school number 1, the Head then handed over to a handful of pupils to speak, but the difference was, this felt good. Why? Because he had set his stall out. He had set the tone. HE was in charge and it was evident that his pupils had a strong leader to follow. (It just so helps that the pupils were amazing in their delivery too!).
So therein lies the difference.
“The Open Days certainly made our minds up about which school we’d want [our son] to go to.”
To give them the benefit of the doubt, maybe school number 1 was having an off day. Or on the other hand, maybe school number 2 was particularly ignited that day. As I say, both schools have a fantastic reputation so whichever it was, all I know is, you can’t beat a strong leader with a strong vision for their school, a spot of slick organisation, a splash of pupil engagement, and a dose of vibrant classroom action thrown in.
The Open Days at these schools certainly made our minds up about which school we’d want our son to go to, and the experience offered at those events heavily outweighed any preconceptions we had about either school.
But no need to listen to me. The true test is our son’s reaction to it all. I don’t really need to tell you which school he clearly preferred do I?
To wrap up, all this reaffirms our belief at Stickman, that creating the WOW for prospective parents at Open Days is a vital part of a school’s admissions process. So if you’re feeling that YOUR Open Days have room for improvement, it’s probably time to go back to the drawing board!
If you need help with any aspect of your admissions process (optimising Open Days or otherwise) 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.
Finally, if you enjoyed this post, we’d be very grateful if you’d help spread the message by emailing it to your contacts or sharing on social media.
Founder of The Stickman Consultancy x