January 10, 2014 11:27 am
Written by Ellie Wilding
Are you making the most of your school website?
A school’s website is clearly a multifaceted tool. It serves to attract prospective parents to consider sending their child to the school, along with being a source of information to current parents and pupils. It is a platform by which to document and display the school’s events and achievements, Ofsted use it as the first port of call during its inspection process and it may also be used as a secure area for staff and governors to upload documents and share information. Some schools even use their website as a cross-curricular learning tool in lessons to teach students basic code and to contribute content in the form of blogs, podcasts and videos.
Is your school making the most of your website provision? Many of the schools we speak to say they are suffering at the hands of an out-dated content management system (CMS), meaning it is overly complicated to perform even the simplest of updates so their site is becoming stagnant.
DfE and eSafety Requirements for your school website
In September 2012 it became a Department for Education requirement for schools’ websites to include information that was historically displayed on their prospectus, and the prospectus itself was no longer a mandatory requirement.
Essentials that schools must include on their site include an ethos and values statement, a named contact to whom general enquiries can be addressed and details about the school’s use of their pupil premium allocation. Read the full list of amendments made in 2012 to the DfE School Information Regulations, or view the DfE’s FAQs.
It is of utmost importance that this information is present on your website. Along with being a legal requirement and generally useful information to display, Ofsted will take into account the quantity and quality of the information provided during their inspection process. In fact, several schools we have worked with have been praised by Ofsted for documenting on their website the positive effects of the use of their pupil premium allocation. One of the schools in question was told that this thorough and measured account of their past year’s spending contributed to their assessment as an ‘outstanding’ school.
In addition to the DfE requirements, Ofsted has now suggested that school websites should include a link to the CEOP website to indicate each school is doing its part to prevent and report child exploitation, and promote online protection. Download and add the image on the left to a location of your website and link the image to this webpage. Now is also a good time to reconsider your eSafety policy and to make sure it is visible on your site.
Functionality of your site
If you are finding it difficult to update the required information due to functionality issues, it may be time to think about a change of CMS. It must be a system that the website administrator feels confident to use and is not so complicated as to put them off making regular changes. Apart from being more engaging and relevant to your visitors there is a good technical reason for keeping your site well-maintained. Google and other search engines scan sites for recent activity and prefer them when listing them on a search. Therefore, if your school’s site is regularly updated it is much more likely to be listed near the top of a list of a relevant search.
Please do let us know if you are struggling to update your site. Your Turn IT On consultant might be able to help during his/her visits to the school, or if you are looking to entirely re-develop your site we can organise our partner company, Primary Site, to get in touch to discuss your requirements and provide a quote for the project. Along with providing an easy-to-use CMS, Primary Site will create a bespoke design which truly reflects your school’s character and ethos.
If you are considering an overhaul of your website, it is worth thinking about the possibility of keeping everything in one place. That is, linking together your website, learning platform, governors’ area and staff area so that only one system is used through the school. The benefit of this is the implications on training and cost, along with the fact it will streamline general processes. Again, get in touch if you would like to discuss this in more detail.
Stuck for inspiration? If you would like some great ideas about how to use your site take a look at the following examples:
There is no reason why your site can’t include any or all of the following:
Text message alerts
Your school website is a great opportunity to get creative and involve the whole school. Add a comment below if you have done just that and would like to share your ideas with our readers.