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  • Writer's pictureLucy Atherton

PR for schools

Updated: Feb 2, 2018

Two years ago while working for I took on work for an academy trust in Taunton with the brief to write content for two new websites they were building, edit fortnightly newsletters, manage its PR and oversee all social media accounts. The main task however was to revamp its image in the local community, as the school had been failing for some time. Encouragingly it had recently been given a large grant to build new facilities and had appointed a new ‘superhead’ with an outstanding track record in a previous school.

This was without doubt a challenging task, as the perception in the local community was that the school was irredeemable. One look at the recent comments on its Facebook page was enough to show us this would be tough. However, when I met the new head teacher I was so inspired by her enthusiasm, energy and drive I knew it wouldn’t be long before she turned things around. I felt honoured to have been asked to help the school on that journey.

My first task was to set about finding success stories in sport, education, hobbies and projects. It appeared that we had a national trampoline champion, several taekwondo stars, a twirling champ and some very talented artists, actors and musicians. I also helped promote the head teacher as an expert in her field. In no time I had built up a sizeable portfolio of glowing articles in the local press, BBC radio interviews and, memorably, a BBC News at Six item on one pupil who had set up his own business and became a millionaire!

See the BBC’s Jon Kay interviewing our millionaire here.

And then came Ofsted. Sadly although the inspectors could see the new found confidence the pupils and staff were radiating and that the new head was driving some big changes, they had to base their assessment on the previous year’s academic achievements and therefore rated them as ‘inadequate’.

Instead of keeping quiet and hoping the local press wouldn’t notice, we decided to face the story head on. I contacted journalists and told them what Ofsted said but immediately added this was only a temporary assessment and listed all the positive changes the head was instituting. After a Facebook post about the report, the school was flooded with positive comments from parents and I made sure the media were put in touch with them so they could gauge the mood of the parent body.

Read the Gazette article here.

In the summer the headteacher was rewarded with a set of their best ever GCSE results and the media was invited back to share their success. I asked BBC Somerset if they wanted to spend the morning at the school interviewing pupils and their resulting resulting report was a delight to listen to.

Listen to the BBC Somerset package here (starts at 5.06).

I can say that without doubt this is one of the most rewarding clients I have worked with. Experiencing the buzz, the new found confidence and pride the head has instilled in the pupils has been inspiring. As I write the school is about to undergo another Ofsted inspection and I look forward to sharing that piece of good news when it comes.


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