- Independent Schools
Donhead is in the enviable position of having waiting lists in every year group, and entry for the next two years into Reception is oversubscribed. Led by Mr Phil Barr, who joined the school in September 2017, it is an independent, preparatory day school for boys aged 4-11, based in Wimbledon, London.
Word of mouth plays a big part in Donhead’s marketing strategy and parents are happy to recommend the school to others. As a result, the main focus of the school’s activity is aimed at current families, “Our biggest marketing push is to make sure that our current parents and pupils are happy with the services we offer, and therefore tell all their friends and family” reports Mr Barr.
Satisfied parents: check! Waiting lists: check! So if the school is doing so well, why invest in a new website?
Headmaster, Phil Barr explains: “As an independent school, you need to have a brand. You need to promote what makes your school special. For Donhead, it’s about expressing the heritage, history and traditions that have made the school so successful, but also showing that we move with the times. Our old website just didn’t reflect this.”
Donhead has invested heavily in its provision of state of the art IT learning facilities supported by top-class teaching. However, their old website just didn’t demonstrate this, “If you had looked at our site, you would have thought Donhead was an old and archaic school, which is not a reflection of what’s going on inside the building.” says Phil.
Ultimately, that is what good websites are designed to do; they should act not purely as a shop window, pushing people to buy, but they should offer prospective parents and pupils a glimpse behind the door, to see what lies within. But more than just that, it is an important tool which allows the personality of the school to shine; a place where pupils and teachers can showcase their work and achievements, both in and outside the classroom.
Phil recognises the value of a good website, and as a result, it was one of the first major projects he chose to undertake when beginning his tenure as Headmaster. He and the Governors understood that the first port of call for recommended parents to find out more about the school would be the school website. “It’s the first thing that parents do. You want to make sure that they are wowed by what they see on your site. That they go away thinking that is a school I’m interested in, I want to explore it, and need to find out more.”
Having previously updated a website in his former school, Phil understood what he was looking for in a website supplier. His priority was to look for a company who understood how to tell a story, how to create a digital presence that really reflected the school, its work, and its community. He didn’t want a template solution which had been pulled out of a box, which could be used for numerous schools. Finalsite were selected as “they solely specialise in school websites; they aren’t an advertising agency which made websites as part of a range of solutions”. This specialism gave Phil the reassurance that not only would they create a top class design, but the technology and website functionality provided by Finalsite would deliver the same high-quality experience for every visitor, that mirrored the educational experience provided inside the school. “We wanted to create a site that first and foremost showed what Donhead’s values are, and one which would deliver the information that current parents and pupils needed quickly and easily.”
Working alongside his Head of Computing Mrs Olivia Rodrigues, who has been a driving force behind the website, and Lori Foster from Finalsite, the process of transformation began. The process was managed via conference calls where designs were discussed and developed, which meant the project could move forward swiftly, with little impact on the Headmaster’s daily tasks. Finalsite helped support the school with the migration and creation of new content, which made a lighter job of a large project, whilst also ensuring the website was optimised for search engine rankings. “They held our hand through the whole process, and what you see on our website now is a result of a really good collaboration between us both, as partners”.
One key area of importance was the ability to be able to update the website quickly and easily, as this supported Donhead’s vision of sharing as much of the life of what happens within the school with the wider world. “A picture paints a thousand words, so to have a platform that allows us to share the many photos that are taken within the school with our school community, has been one of the best features of the website.”
Composer, Finalsite’s content management system, enables a range of staff to update the school website, which has had an unexpected benefit. Phil explains “It’s made everyone in school aware that they have a platform to share what’s happening in their classroom. They can now highlight not only the pupils’ achievements but also the amazing work they are doing as professionals. All the hard work and planning that goes into delivering top-class teaching. It’s a way of the school saying to staff, you have just done something amazing – put it out there!”
Parents and pupils have been extremely complimentary about the website, citing the design, ease of navigation, and finding information among the main benefits. It’s created a sense of pride within the school, with both pupils and parents telling peers to visit the new site. The project has clearly been a success, and Phil is extremely pleased with the effect the new site has had upon the staff. “The old site was reflective of a very successful school, doing excellent work, to get the job done. However, changing the website has created a new culture in the school; it’s changed the way people are evidencing what they are doing in the classroom. It’s been really positive for our staff; they now have the opportunity to showcase their wonderful work, and their expert teaching practices, all via the Finalsite platform.”
A highly skilled marketer, Jessica has a wealth of experience gained within the telecoms IT, and healthcare sectors, and has worked within education since 2012. An expert in both traditional and digital marketing, she utilises her extensive marketing knowledge to help companies create strategies and campaigns which make them stand out from the crowd; driving awareness, engagement and sales.
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