By Janine Nixon on 23 Jun 2022
Think of your website as a shop window into your school. Your chance to show prospective parents and pupils the wonderful learning environment they could be part of and an amazing communication tool for parents and carers of current pupils. Also, importantly, an opportunity to paint a picture of your school community to Ofsted inspectors. School websites are reviewed before an inspection, so inspectors will make an intial judgement of your school before even stepping through the door. Every local-authority-maintained school must publish specific information on its website to comply with the School Information (England) Regulations (2008), as amended by The School Information (England) (Amendment) Regulations 2012 and 2016 and other relevant legislation including the Equality Act 2010: advice for schools and the Children and Families Act 2014.
A school, in County Durham, was recently criticised during their Ofsted Inspection for poor leadership and management and communication between school and parents. The report highlighted faults with the school website: “Leaders do not regularly canvass opinions, and methods of communication between home and school are sometimes fragmented. It does not help that some information on the school website is out of date.”
Remember, your website must contain all the statutory information but should also communicate, inform and engage with the user! Ofsted will look favourably on a school who have gone the extra mile with their website and not the bare minimum.
Just as important as having all the statutory information on your website, is having the information easy to find in an organised, logical and concise way. A user journey is a series of steps visitors to your website may take on your website in order to reach a particular goal. Best practice would be the 3 click rule. Consider your user journey. If your school website is cluttered and difficult to navigate, Ofsted Inspectors and web visitors are likely to leave before finding the information they need and exploring other pages. Think about each area of your website paying particular notice to your high-value pages. For example, what information will parent most likely look for? What information would someone looking to apply for your school need to know? Group these together under a relevant header. Is your Ofsted statutory information easily visible and accessible? Having a website that is not easy to navigate will lead to frustrated visitors and inspectors. It is so important to ensure your information is up to date and engaging. The right content will create a visually appealing yet informative website and demonstrate strong communication with parents to Ofsted Inspectors. Remember the golden rule. Communicate, inform and engage! Your content should be informative, compliant with statutory requirements but also engage the user.
News stories, blogs, events, parent views, pupil views, fundraising activities are all great ways of communicating with parents and the wider community about activities taking place in school, demonstrating your broad and balanced curriculum and school ethos. Be imaginative. You could have weekly class blog takeovers where the pupils show off their super writing skills, have monthly a day in the life of…video blogs, your pupils could even turn journalists and interview their teachers! There are so many different ways to make your content engaging. Remember, it’s great to promote activities in school but be careful not to overload the site with old news make sure old content is removed; outdated policies, old term dates, the celebration assembly you held in 2016…Frequently updated relevant content will keep your website alive, it’s engaging for teachers, students and parents and will impress an Ofsted Inspector.
Your school may be outstanding in all areas, but if your website does not meet your statutory requirements this will impact your Ofsted rating.