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Do academies really need marketing?

Tyler Lawrence from Drapers' Multi-Academy Trust runs us through the issues...

Posted by Hannah Oakman | May 06, 2015 | School life

 In my column for Academy Today, I hope to do two things. One, show the relevance of why marketing is needed within academies and two, identify and discuss simple tools that can be used to create effective marketing.

For my first column I will focus on the primary question: is marketing needed within academies?

I guarantee the traditional education professionals are laughing at the thought of me suggesting that schools need marketing and/or the word marketing and schools being placed in the same sentence.

However I am sure we can all agree on two things. The first is that education has changed. Academies are not the same as your large corporate brands such as Tesco or Apple but the principles of marketing these companies operate in can be applied. Also with academies and free schools, there is now a sense of competition between trusts and education providers; whether you believe this is a good or bad thing is a whole different argument. However I am definitely on the side of good!

Statistics from the Ofsted Annual Report 2013/2014 show the rise of academies. Around 60% of secondary schools and 14% of primary schools are an academy or free school. This figure will only increase.

I have been working in education for just over two years and during that short time, marketing and communication efforts have increased: from the way schools communicate with home, to the promotional campaigns they undertake for their Open Evenings and schools attempting to make a presence on social media; the list does not end there either.

The reason schools are attempting to evolve in this way is, in my opinion, very simple. The first and most important is that schools want to communicate better with their parents/carers and local community. With effective, 21st century communication channels they can see better results from the messages they are sending out and create a clear brand image they are happy with.

The second is they want to be full! Each year, an academy or trust could have several intakes – reception classes, new Year 7s and new Year 12s. And each year they will aim to be full and hopefully oversubscribed.

If an academy or education provider does not have effective communication channels and/or a weak brand image, this will have a knock on effect on their admissions.

Local parents and carers will have a very clear image of each of the local schools. If your school has a negative brand persona within the local community – firstly, they will not think of you when it comes to attending your open evening and, secondly, you will mostly likely not feature at all in their choice for their children.

Not all schools are full. If you have a look at your local boroughs statistics this will be evident.

No academy wants to be the one that is not full. To give yourself every opportunity to be oversubscribed, you need to be more than an exam factory and have more than one news article on your website about last year’s GCSE results.

Academies need to be proactive and seek positive stories to share with their parents and the local community. Academies need to create and build a strong, clear brand image. If an academy feels that marketing and communication has no place within their school, that’s fine. However, don’t be surprised when your parents expect more of you or may choose to look at another local school.

Tyler Lawrence is Marketing and Communications Manager at Drapers’ Multi-Academy Trust. Visit www.drapers-schools.com for more info.

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