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Reputation management for schools Experience shared: Effective mentoring Nurture groups and parental engagement Tackling bullying in schools - part one Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others Managing difficult conversations The art of influence: Creating the best outcome Change management and conflict Managing anxiety at work Interpreting data for 2017 performance Evaluation article: Know your strengths Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016 Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016 Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser? Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools? Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment Evaluation article: Actively promoting fundamental British values Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence Evaluation article: Getting personal  with CPD Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process Evaluation article: Parent View — an update Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Reputation management for schools

PLMR’s Sam Dalton talks about how schools can manage reputational impact when a crisis hits.

Experience shared: Effective mentoring

Steve Burnage explores the professional development potential of a productive and focused mentoring relationship from the perspective of the mentor.

Nurture groups and parental engagement

Nurture groups are a multi-dimensional group intervention with a whole-school focus, and running them successfully depends on a wide array of different factors. In this third and final article exploring…

Tackling bullying in schools - part one

Bullying is defined as: ‘Behaviour by an individual or group, usually repeated over time, that intentionally hurts another individual or group either physically or emotionally’. This article looks at the…

Aggression at work: Managing yourself and others

Conflict management is a vital skill for managers. Schools have clear policies on managing aggression in the classroom and playground. In this article Louise Wingrove looks at dealing with it…

Managing difficult conversations

Some conversations are always going to be uncomfortable. In this article, Louise Wingrove looks at managing difficult subjects with care and confidence.

The art of influence: Creating the best outcome

Louise Wingrove looks at how being aware of your impact on others can help everybody get what they need.

Change management and conflict

Nazli Hussein looks at the causes of conflict and the best ways to deal with it, with the best outcomes for those involved.

Managing anxiety at work

With growing awareness about anxiety and the impact it can have on both pupils and members of staff, Louis Wingrove looks at some ways to tackle the problem in the…

Interpreting data for 2017 performance

Tony Powell looks at the three different ways that a school’s academic performance is evaluated.

Evaluation article: Know your strengths

Can you make inspection an enriching learning process that is actually good for your school? Heather Clements of Best Practice Network offers some advice. 

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectation

In this article, Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectation in their schools. 

Achieving an ‘Outstanding’ Grade: Focused on Excellence

Tony Powell outlines a step-by-step approach to support schools in achieving the accolade of ‘outstanding’ as defined by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: HR and the successful school: A case study

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling College, gives a personal viewpoint of the benefits of bringing in the experts.

Evaluation article: Leading the way to outstanding learner progress

Steve Burnage discusses engaging with good practice in the leadership of teaching and learning.

Evaluation article: Attainment and progress: The Rochford Review

Tony Powell reports on the findings of the final Rochford Review.

Evaluation article: How to create a leadership team that drives school improvement

A high-performing leadership team is at the centre of any school improvement mission. But how do you go about creating an excellent SLT? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network asks…

Evaluation article: Prioritising the budget for school improvement

Adrian Kneeshaw of Carlton Bolling school gives advice on how to focus school spending on improvement planning.

Evaluation article: Transforming a failing school

Matt Bromley offers some advice on turning around an underperforming school in a short space of time while laying down the foundations for sustainable improvement.

Evaluation article: Evaluating alternative and specially resourced provision

Tony Powell explains how inspectors gather evidence and make judgements on the quality of alternative and specially resourced provision.

Evaluation article: Taking a school-wide approach to mental health and wellbeing

With concerns about mental health rising, what can schools do to help their pupils? Suzanne O’Connell outlines the advice available from the National Children’s Bureau and how it might be…

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - January 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Managing uncertainty

If you are struggling with a sense of uncertainty, be reassured: you are not alone. 2016 has been a year of upheaval, with the promise of big changes on the…

Evaluation article: Pupil voice as an evaluation technique

Tony Powell provides guidance on how to use discussion with pupils as a tool for self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: The latest developments in education - September 2016

Suzanne O’Connell provides a look at what’s currently being discussed, debated and determined in the world of education.

Evaluation article: Deconstructing Ofsted: Reflection after inspection

Tony Powell looks at how to use the feedback from your inspection in school improvement planning.

Evaluation article: MAT expansion: Don’t let school improvement become a casualty

How can an expanding multi-academy trust ensure that school improvement doesn’t become a casualty of change? Colin McLean of Best Practice Network looks at the issue and offers some guidance.

Evaluation article: Ten rules for outstanding leaders

Adrian Kneeshaw looks at how leadership is important to the success of the school, and how to lead effectively.

Evaluation article: The governing body as a critical friend

In his second article on the headteacher and governor relationship, Tony Powell defines what is meant by a ‘critical friend’.

Evaluation article: Developing an ethos of high expectations

Steve Burnage shares some practical strategies to enable school leaders to develop an ethos of high expectations in their schools.

Evaluation article: The exam post-mortem

Matt Bromley considers how schools can learn from exam performance data and build this into school improvement.

Evaluation article: Safeguarding: Everyone’s responsibility

With new safeguarding guidance released, it’s time to check your arrangements and update your staff.

Evaluation article: How do inspectors make the judgement about overall effectiveness? The Ofsted model

This article outlines the Ofsted methodology for determining whether a school is ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’.

Evaluation article: Effective leadership builds effective teams

Steve Burnage offers advice on motivating staff, getting the best from them and building effective teams.

Evaluation article: Baseline assessment and SEND

Suzanne O’Connell looks at a report on baseline assessment in primary schools and it’s affect on identifying children with SEND.

Evaluation article: Making performance management count in school improvement

What do you need to do to make performance management a watertight process that makes a real contribution to school improvement? Keith Wright has some suggestions.

Evaluation article: Joining or setting up a multi-academy trust

Tony Stephens, of the Co-operative Academies Trust, looks at what is the best type of multi-academy trust for a school to join or establish.

Evaluation article: Case study from Carlton Bolling College: Ensuring high-quality governance

Adrian Kneeshaw, Headteacher of Carlton Bolling, gives a personal take on renewing a failing governing body having designed and built one from scratch.

Evaluation article: Using pupil voice to support school evaluation

David Birch explains how capturing the views of students can sharpen school self-evaluation and have a positive impact on your school improvement strategies.

Evaluation article: What are the signs of a good school improvement service adviser?

Frank Norris offers advice on how to choose the most appropriate school improvement partner to work with your school.

Evaluation article: Headteachers’ appraisal

David Birch outlines best practice in the management of the headteacher appraisal process and offers advice for headteachers on how to make the most of appraisal in their own professional development.

Evaluation article: Making CPD work harder

Professional development is a crucial factor in school improvement and improving pupil outcomes, but it could work harder, says Keith Wright.

Evaluation article: Using the Framework for governance

Tony Powell looks at how the Framework for governance can be used to clarify the strategic direction of your school.

Evaluation article: Interpreting the inspection dashboard

There is a new inspection dashboard to go with Ofsted's new Common inspection framework. Tony Powell explains how it can be used.

Evaluation article: The government's Prevent guidance

Suzanne O'Connell considers the guidance available regarding Prevent and school leaders' responsibilities.

Evaluation article: Improving provision for the most able

Ofsted reports are making it clear. The DfE wants to see secondary schools challenging their most able students. In this article, Suzanne O’Connell summarises the criticisms and recommendations from ‘The…

Evaluation article: Personal development, behaviour and welfare

Tony Powell looks at the new key area ‘personal development, behaviour and welfare’ under the new Ofsted inspection framework.

Evaluation article: Is there a mental health crisis in our schools?

The mental health of children and young people is at the top of the agenda at the moment. Increased anxiety, self-harm and eating disorders are bringing some schools to crisis…

Evaluation article: Evaluating the effectiveness of assessment

Tony Powell interprets government guidance on assessment to help schools support self-evaluation.

Evaluation article: Actively promoting fundamental British values

Tony Powell advises on how schools can demonstrate that they are actively promoting fundamental British values.

Evaluation article: Raising boys’ achievement

John Viner looks at research into boys’ underachievement and reviews some successful strategies.

Evaluation article: National standards of excellence for headteachers

Tony Powell looks at the revised national standards for headteachers and how they should be used by schools.

Evaluation article: Governors and the inspection interview

Tony Powell discusses how to prepare governors in advance for an inspection interview.

Evaluation article: Monitoring and coaching through lesson observation

John Viner explores ways to develop a culture of continual improvement in teaching through lesson observation.

Evaluation article: CPD: Less measurement and more development

How can schools translate CPD into genuine improvement for staff? Keith Wright asked leaders to share their views, and discovered an emerging consensus about which approaches work best.

Evaluation article: Challenging 
the most able

Tony Powell looks at how to identify the most able pupils, and the key factors that enable the brightest pupils to achieve.

Evaluation article: Using the teachers’ standards as a framework for CPD and accountability

Tony Powell looks at how the teachers’ standards can be used to evaluate performance and support improvement.

Evaluation article: Managing behaviour outside the classroom

Since January 2014 there has been increased emphasis on the behaviour of pupils. In this article, Jim Donnelly offers advice on managing behaviour around the school.

Evaluation article: Managing pupils’ behaviour in lessons

David Birch offers advice on effective classroom management and argues that effective practice relies on a combination of the consistent application of agreed policy and the development of awareness and…

Evaluation article: Keeping Children Safe Statutory Guidance

This is statutory guidance, which means that schools and colleges (including academies and free schools) must have regard to it. It contains what schools should do and what they must…

Evaluation article: Four steps to school improvement

School improvement is a complex recipe that takes time to perfect. Keith Wright looks at some of the key barriers to school improvement and suggests strategies and systems to overcome…

Evaluation article: Finding a way through the jungle: The essence of leadership

Louise Wingrove gives practical advice on how to become a leader your team will want to follow.

Evaluation article: How to audit your whole-school literacy provision

Given that whole-school literacy is central to raising standards of achievement in schools and that it is a key focus for Ofsted, David Birch outlines some of the actions schools…

Evaluation article: Professional development: the growing case for evidence

Teachers are good at gathering evidence of pupil progress, but many find it difficult to do the same with regard to their own professional development.  Keith Wright looks at the…

Evaluation article: Getting personal with CPD

Less than a fifth of teachers in England’s schools think their continuing profession development (CPD) is any good, according to a recent survey. One of the keys to unlocking the…

Evaluation article: Making performance appraisal an objective and helpful process

Performance appraisal is crucial to school improvement, but many schools are still without a rigorous and transparent way of carrying it out, says Keith Wright. Here, he analyses the challenges…

Evaluation article: Parent View — an update

Jenny Townsend looks at the importance of Parent View in achieving an outstanding rating in inspection, and how comments from parents are used by Ofsted.

Evaluation article: Raising pupil achievement through parental engagement: a practical approach

Jenny Townsend explores how parental engagement can contribute to school improvement and in particular the role this can play in raising pupil achievement levels.

Evaluation article: Effective parental engagement

Ofsted’s Parent View means that parents have a direct influence on the decision to inspect. Jenny Townsend examines why this matters to schools.

Reputation management for schools

Published: Tuesday, 15 May 2018

PLMR’s Sam Dalton talks about how schools can manage reputational impact when a crisis hits.

Summary

  • Schools need to build a positive reputation so they can remain strong if a crisis occurs. 
  • Schools should be fully prepared for a crisis, having set procedures in place, and ensuring staff know how to respond if an incident happens.
  • It must be the absolute priority to establish key facts before any crisis communications materials are put together.
  • Schools need to communicate effectively to all stakeholders, including parents, staff, and the media.
  • Once a crisis has passed, members of staff should remain prepared should the issue resurface in the media, and take active steps to rebuild the positive reputation of the school.

While the most important goal for schools is undoubtedly to foster the educational environment in which students can fulfil their potential, effective reputation management is intrinsically connected to this. Communicating well with stakeholders means schools can showcase their excellent learning opportunities to a wide audience, and support the recruitment of both staff and students so they can secure higher levels of funding, and achieve their core aims. With today’s educational environment less segmented into different types of school, e.g. grammar and comprehensive, schools need to compete with a wider variety of institutions similar to their own.

The move towards multi-academy trusts (MATs) also raises the importance of effective reputation management. In large groups of schools, with thousands of students and hundreds of teachers in attendance in every day, it is an unfortunate inevitability that issues will arise, which can quickly pose a serious challenge for the trust. Whether it be a student safeguarding issue, a teacher that has made a mistake, or a poor Ofsted rating, it is crucial to deal with these issues appropriately, to maintain the strongest possible reputation.

I have outlined five top tips below that we at PLMR would provide to our clients to manage these situations:

  • Build a positive reputation.
  • Have clear procedures in place.
  • Get the facts straight.
  • Communicate effectively with key stakeholders.
  • Post-crisis communications.

Build a positive reputation

If a school or trust has already established a strong reputation, then overcoming a crisis will be much easier. From positive stories about academic results and extra-curricular achievements to thought-leadership pieces on best practice, maintaining a steady stream of news stories raises awareness of the school’s great work, and provides a firm foundation to build from when tackling a reputational issue.

Be prepared and establish clear procedures

All schools and trusts should have a clear protocol in place for when a crisis arises. This ensures everyone knows what their role is and how they should respond, and puts the school in a strong position to act swiftly and resolve the issue. When it comes to a crisis communications plan, the following points should be in place:

  • First steps checklist – i.e. what are the initial actions that the organisation must take when something goes wrong.
  • Key stakeholder list - your key target audiences, for example: parents, teachers and other staff members, key politicians and other local influencers, and members of the wider public and media.
  • Spokespeople – the key people within your organisation or key person (for example the CEO of the academy trust or Headteacher of the school) who would represent the organisation during the crisis and keep people informed of what is going on.
  • Your crisis team and a list of contact information – for example: your CEO, senior leadership team, and operations team.
  • Possible risks – what could occur that would be a threat to your trust or school? For example: a negative Ofsted rating, a teacher making a mistake, or students’ safety being put at risk.
  • Key messages – what are you going to say: how you will be putting things right, what you intend to do moving forward, as well as more general messages about your trust or school.
  • Draft press statements and template letters for external and internal stakeholders.
  • Media call log to document calls and enquiries – this will ensure that all enquiries are dealt with.
  • A press and social media protocol sheet – including scripts for staff members about how to handle potentially aggressive media enquiries, and pass it on to the correct people, e.g. your senior leadership team.

Get the facts straight

As soon as a crisis hits, ensure you have all the relevant facts and information. It is vital that your public statement is accurate, and contains no factual flaws that might be exposed by journalists. Having the facts will not only ensure your communications are as well-informed as possible, but will help handle the crisis itself. Sometimes you won’t have the full facts, for instance during an investigation, and in these situations your public statement will inevitably be less detailed. That’s normal – here you can let people know that a final outcome is still be reached.

Communicate effectively with key stakeholders

It is crucial that all strands of your communication, whether to internal stakeholders such as parents and staff, or external stakeholders such as the media and wider public, are joined-up and work in harmony. This is true both in terms of the timing and content of communication. You don’t want parents or staff to find out about a crisis for the first time from a sensationalist newspaper article. You need to ensure they are well-informed and reassured from the start.

Each situation is different and requires careful judgement, but internal and external communication must always be considered within one unified strategy.

Post-crisis communications

After the crisis has died down, come together as a team, and reflect on what can be learnt from the situation. What went well and what didn’t go so well? Did you limit negative media coverage, and communicate effectively with parents and staff? Asking these questions will help you improve your crisis protocol.

In addition, you should remain prepared for the possibility of the story resurfacing later on. Have a reactive media statement ready, and think of ways to build the positive reputation of the school or trust to put it in an even stronger position should this happen.

PLMR case study: school within an academy trust requiring immediate communications support

Schools always have to bear in mind Ofsted inspections. They play a key role in shaping perceptions of a school’s quality of teaching and learning, and affect parents’ likelihood of sending their child to a school. One of the schools we work for had received a ‘Requires Improvement’ rating from Ofsted, and we needed to act fast to communicate this news to internal and external stakeholders in a way that focused on the positives of the report, and minimised any reputational damage done to the school and its trust.

PLMR crafted a narrative focused on the school’s progress and upward trajectory, highlighting the work its new Headteacher was doing to raise standards and enhance the life chances of students. This resulted in a broadly positive story which focused on the changes the Headteacher had made, and the positive impact this was already having. While the ‘Requires Improvement’ rating was still mentioned, this happened within the context of a story which was predominantly positive and optimistic.

At the same time, PLMR drafted a letter to parents of children at the school, informing them of the rating early on, while explaining the improvements being made by the Headteacher. Overall, our proactive communications strategy meant the school was on the front foot with regards to how the Ofsted report was perceived, and resulted in a much more positive and optimistic narrative than would have been the case without the careful planning and coordination that went into our communications.

Toolkit

Use the following item in the Toolkit to put the ideas in the article into practice:

About the author

Sam Dalton is an Account Executive at PLMR, a leading education communications agency, specialising in PR and media relations, reputation management, stakeholder engagement, public affairs and planning and digital marketing. This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

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