Last week I received a lovely, laminated postcard style invitation to attend an Open Morning at a local prep school. I have received these 2-3 times a year since registering interest some 3-4 years ago. There’s a lovely image on the front and details about when and where the next events are. It definitely “ticks a box” as a regular piece of communications but I couldn’t help but think that the school is seriously missing a trick and could make this piece of their marketing collateral much better and probably get a higher return on investment from it.
By looking at the data they took from me, the school should be able to work out that my children are now both school aged and probably at a very good state primary school. Which means we would need to be pretty unhappy with how things are going to want to move them somewhere else and start paying fees. Why do parents move their children? Well, from those I talk to the major reasons seem to be:
- Desire for more co-curricular activities – 30 mins of sport a day rather than once or twice a week with specialist coaches; music with qualified music teachers and drama and performance opportunities for all, not just as an after-school club.
- Wraparound care – working parents can find the limited before and after school care options in some state schools impacts hugely on their lives. Selecting an independent school with early drop off and an attractive after school programme removes the need for childminders and ferrying around to after school clubs and activities. A lot of independent schools also run holiday courses now too.
- Smaller classes. As children get older, some parents feel they are getting lost in larger infant and junior classes. Although class size must not exceed 30 in YR-Y2 they can then increase to 33 or 34 and not always with a teaching assistant in the classroom.
- Preparation for 11+ and 13+. Primary schools do not prepare children for entry to selective independent schools, so if they can, some parents move earlier to take advantage of the advice and support a prep school can give in the build up to senior school entry.
There are of course many other reasons but by focussing on these in your comms to parents on your database with 5-6 year olds with a view to 7+ entry might persuade disillusioned parents to come and have another look. Ask a current parent who made the switch to give you a quote or testimonial; do some research to see how you compare on time spent on sport for example and focus on how you support each child.
Schools need to “push buttons” with the messages they give out in their comms and create a meaningful and emotive call to action when targeting parents who decided to educate their children elsewhere. Using the same approach for all won’t reap you the same benefits as a more targeted and personalised campaign. If you are going to spend money keeping in touch with parents, make sure you are telling them something they might want, or need, to hear. Give them FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) and they will come calling…..