With a new school term on the horizon and during the first couple of weeks, many schools will be taking a close look at their website with a view to welcoming new students and their families, and making sure important information is relevant and up to date.
Not only is your website an important tool for communication with your community, school websites are now under scrutiny from Ofsted and the DfE, with certain information required to be kept visible and up to date to ensure compliance with The School Information Regulations.
There are also a few simple ways to ensure your website is easy for you or your staff to maintain, and engaging for the parents and careers of your pupils.
Before getting back into your day-to-day school routine, don’t forget to review your school’s website to make sure that the content is still up to date, and check if you could make an simple changes to improve the site’s usability. Here are a few school website tips for planning and compliance, with suggested tasks to perform and items to check before the new term is in full swing.
Update your calendar
Two key purposes of your school’s website are marketing and communication. Your site allows you to quickly get information to parents, students, staff and the local community , keeping it visible for as long as is relevant. Ideally, your site’s event calendar should be updated before the school term starts. Add all holidays, sports events, plays etc. for which the date is already set. Categorise the events based on the audience they are for so you can share different calendars via email or on separate website pages.
Make sure your site is in compliance with DfE requirements
Last year, the DfE published a detailed, updated list of requirements with all the information a school should publish on its website. There are reports suggesting that OFSTED is doing unannounced inspections at schools that fail to provide the correct information on their websites, so if you’re not sure you’re in compliance, now is the time for a thorough review. Let’s have a look at the most important points on the list.
Your site needs to display the name, address and phone number of your school, as well as the contact information of the staff member in charge of dealing with enquiries.
You must either publish your full admission arrangements per age group or publish information about where your admission arrangements can be found.
Your last Ofsted report should be available on your site or you must provide a link to where this report can be found.
You need to publish Information regarding the KS2 and KS4 results of your pupils.
Your website must have information about how pupil premium funding is spent at your school and how it has affected the attainment of pupils who attract the funding.
Special educational needs report
If you are a maintained school, a report on your policy for SEN pupils with must be published on your website.
- Your website must have information about charging and remissions policies.
- You should publish a declaration of your ethos and values on your website.
- Your website should have detailed information about your behaviour policy.
- You need to publish complete information regarding the content of your school’s curriculum.
- A link to the DfE performance tables web page must be published on your site.
- If requested by a parent, a paper copy containing all the information that is published on your site must be provided free of charge.
Getting started with this can be a daunting task, but an important one nonetheless.
Download this checklist and go through your site one section at a time.
Refresh your content
Don’t let outdated content sit on your website. Having old, irrelevant content on your site will not prospective families. We’re not saying you need to update your school website five times per week, but regular content updates, especially before the new school year and each new term starts, are a good idea.
Go over the content on your site and update any outdated information. Check your staff directory, any files or sites that you link to, add new social media accounts or remove ones that are not used anymore, add new photos, post some interesting news stories, etc. You could also add a social media feed to your homepage so people can see what’s going on in the community.
Create an editorial plan and content schedule
Maintaining your website’s content on your own is a lot of work, which is why it’s great to have some help from teachers and support staff. However, if everyone who’s writing on the site uses a different voice and way of structuring content, things can start looking a bit messy.
It is a good idea to define an editorial plan that describes how content should be written and how other website administrators should go about posting new content (for example, you may want to have them send any updates to you for approval). Also, to ensure that your content is updated in a timely manner, you should create a content schedule describing when certain sections of your website need to be updated or new content should be added.
Consider a design update
If your website design is more than a few years old, you may want to consider having the design updated. Even a few small design changes can already make your site look a lot more modern. If your site is more than 5 years old, you should probably consider a redesign / refresh.
Make sure your website is mobile-friendly
One design update you should make a priority is making your site mobile-friendly (if you haven’t done so yet). More and more people are using mobile devices to browse the web. If your website is difficult to navigate on such devices, many visitors will just close it. Google has also started placing more importance on the mobile-friendliness of websites. Websites that don’t adapt to screen size may get a lower ranking in search engine results because of this. To find out if your website is mobile-friendly, you can use Google’s own Mobile-Friendly Test. If you fail this test, you should talk to your website developer.
Create or update your FAQs
If you often get emails or phone calls from parents or staff members with common questions, you may want to add answers to some of these to your frequently asked questions (FAQ) section or create one if you don’t have one yet. Some questions that are likely to pop up often include:
- When are the school holidays / inset days?
- What are the school uniform policies?
- What are the admissions arrangements?
Try to answer all common questions as thoroughly as possible on your site. It may take a bit of time to collect and present this information, but it could save you a lot of time in the long term.
It doesn’t need to be called an FAQ page – as long as you have clear navigation for different types of website visitors and needs, taking them to relevant pages where you answer those questions.
Your school’s website is one of the most important tools in your marketing and communication toolkit. If you don’t update regularly though to ensure freshness and regulatory compliance, it can turn into an anti-marketing tool that does more harm than good. The start of the new school term is a fresh start in many ways, so it could be useful to make a habit of going through a checklist like the one above and performing any necessary updates.
Can we help you?
At Webanywhere, we work hard to make school websites engaging for your community and easy to use for your staff. Why not learn about our school website design and content management platform – School Jotter – or contact us for an informal discussion about your website requirements?