While there are many strategies for raising enrollment levels at private schools, one of the most effective tools is investing in existing students and their parents as representatives of the school.
Promote Curriculum Sharing
One strategy that has proven successful at boosting parental involvement involves sharing the coming year’s curriculum with the parent community for a limited time before the school year begins. This allows parents to look ahead to what their children will be learning, provide limited feedback, and perhaps brush up on quadratic equations in preparation for helping with homework! As outlined in Chalk’s How To Create Living Curriculum Maps resource, the framework facilitates sharing specific curriculum outlines to parents and provides suggestions for ways to link feedback opportunities to the process if desired.
Curriculum sharing is also a fantastic opportunity to highlight areas where your school goes beyond the district requirements: perhaps a coding project, an in-depth study of global history, an upcoming class trip, or sports training run by teachers with NFL or NHL experience. Whatever your school’s strengths, sharing curriculum maps gives parents a chance to get excited – and talk about – your school’s unique opportunities with family, friends, and colleagues.
Share School Projects using Social Technology
Another strategy for raising involvement is encouraging transparency between parents and what their children are learning in the classroom using both traditional and technology-based methods.
Schools can provide a friends-only Facebook Live video stream of an elementary school play, or integrate lessons about using social media and laboratory equipment safely by having high school students film Boomerang video clips of science experiments (where a video clip of a few seconds plays normally then in reverse on a loop, capturing, perhaps, the brilliant burst of combusting magnesium then its return to an inert state.) These are only a couple of ways to integrate lessons about technology while safely sharing projects with interested families without having to sign them into the school as visitors, or crowd them into a science lab.
Participate in Community Outreach Events
That said, when possible, the value of connecting with others in person cannot be understated. Consider participating as a school in a local Doors Open Day or similar initiative after class hours. In the case of Doors Open, which started in France in 1984, and expanded to other countries including the USA, Canada, Australia, and Scotland, this city-wide event encourages citizens to learn about their communities by giving members of the public guided tours through buildings that are not normally accessible, or which usually charge an access fee. It’s a great way to engage enthusiastic students and parents alongside teachers or other school staff as tour guide teams or stationed strategically throughout the school, and can potentially reach an audience of future students’ families who might not have been interested in or available to attend the school’s open house.
Connection with the greater community through student volunteering and charitable initiatives can also help your school stand out to existing and prospective parents. In a 2014 study by the Case Foundation, the researchers found that 92% of Millennials feel like they’re contributing to a company that is making a positive impact on the world. As more Millennials become parents, they may intentionally seek out schools that encourage a socially conscious student body.
Sharing your School’s Stories
Finally, while it might be a little cheesy: if your school is proud of its students, talk about it! Make sure your school website is up-to-date (with recent photos of actual students, not stock stand-ins, where possible) with an intuitive menu and design so kids and parents can easily find the information they’re looking for.
Also, be sure to reach out to local TV or print media when there’s something special happening, whether it’s classes working with a 3D printer or participating in a forest clean-up.
A good next step in promoting your school is to start or revive a school blog on your website. Teachers, students, administrators, and parents can contribute to the blog, sharing classroom initiatives, sports season updates, or stories about students making an impact in their areas of interest. Here’s why:
Blogging can be a fantastic tool to hear from a variety of voices within the school community. Help the student/parent community get to know new teachers through interview-based blogs, or highlight an upcoming unit or project that’s unique to your school.
Student blogs can be a valuable testimonial for the school, while building their students’ written portfolio – particularly key for students applying for creative or communications-based post-secondary programs.
Particularly at the elementary/primary school levels, consider offering parents who have volunteered with class trips or projects the chance to write about their experiences; spending time with children can be a potent reminder of the importance of creativity, wonder, and simple play in our everyday lives. Parents’ experiences can encourage other parents to get involved at the school or share these stories with their networks, which can introduce your school to new audiences.
Whichever strategies you choose, we wish you luck in engaging your students and parents meaningfully and creating a positive, innovative school environment that encourages others to enroll. Which strategies for building enrolment have worked for you? Connect with us in the comments!