Built hundreds of website and helped countless schools realise their potential online. Ian should be called upon for straight-talking advice and to make a difference to the way you present your school through every outlet.
Take two primary school websites from the same Multi-Academy Trust. Take into account the infrastructure within the schools and the Trust itself. Consider that both schools use the same school website provider, Schudio. And, consider the difference in attitudes towards school website requirements in each school. What you'll find is a striking picture of some of the most common school website requirements mistakes, found all over the UK.
In this post, we're going to explore two websites, both of which are part of The Active Learning Trust and who's websites are provided by Schudio. We're going to see how two schools with the same support and the same technology can differ so dramatically in how they meet or don't meet, the latest school website requirements.
This comparison is done in full co-operation with The Active Learning Trust
One of the things that inspectors hate the most is box-checking. It is a fact that inspectors are looking for a rich, accurate picture of life in school BEFORE they visit you.
Here's a question for you, have you ever approached your curriculum content with this thought? "I've got a curriculum statement on my website, tick"
Have you ever thought that? Job done?
That is one of the things that ticks inspectors off more than any other. Here's why.
Inspectors are looking for much more than boxes checked. The curriculum area of your school website is one of the prime examples of this.
Check out: https://burrowmoor.net/curriculum
This is a simple page of text links to pdf documents that cannot be viewed apart from within the browser. The content is hard to find your way around and gives no indication whatsoever of how the curriculum is being taught in school. Inspectors are looking for you to do something very specific with your website; let's take a look below at Isle of Ely.
The difference here is that Isle of Ely has clearly laid out their curriculum information on an easy to find page called Curriculum. They have explained in some detail what they are aiming for with their currciulum and included the relevant documents.
Then, when you go to any of the class pages within the school there is a regularly updated, easy to follow and rich content that provides EVIDENCE of the curriculum being delivered.
It can’t be stressed enough how important this is to your school website.
Whenever you add any content in to your curriculum information, make sure you link to evidence of that in action.
This is precisely what inspectors are looking for and it is a powerful step to take.
If you add this content inspectors will already see your school in a positive light before they come to school. They are already seeing evidence that you are doing what you say you are doing.
So, if you claim to engage with the community, where is your charity page? Link to it.
If you promote outdoor learning in your curriculum statement, where are the photos of your outdoor area being used to deliver the curriculum? Link to it.
You need to be applying this principle to every area of the curriculum and seeking opportunities to point inspectors to the evidence.
We fully understand that this is a constant battle for school website managers.
There is a lot of content to consider and keep on top of. Day to day it’s so easy to add content to your website and do so in a way that is the quickest and easiest. The result is often that school website content is hard to find and hard to navigate.
A great rule of thumb to follow is that if it is more than two clicks away, it’s too hard to find.
Did you know that, not only do inspectors visit your website and dive deep into your content, Ofsted administrators are checking your school website BEFORE inspectors and providing those inspectors with a report on your website?
Did you know that?
If the structure of your website means that content is hard to find it will raise questions about whether you are on top of the organisational side of the school. It speaks to leadership and management and WILL result in more questions being asked of you.
The answer? Ensure your website structure is easy to follow and that YOU know where everything is.
Check out: https://burrowmoor.net/Safeguarding
The issue here is that Burrowmoor has, what appears to be a stripped-back structure. There doesn't appear to be that many pages on the website, so it's easy to navigate, right? Sadly not. The site is a series of rabbit holes and it is incredibly difficult to find your way in and out of the key sections. Finding content is hard and a lot of content is buried in pages that are not easy to find. Worse still, when you finally find the content you need, it isn't necessarily available in a format that is going to be easy to read.
This will, and has been picked up by inspectors.
Check out: https://isleofelyprimary.org
The structure on this website, bearing in mind this is the same organisation using the same website platform, is like night and day. The menu structure is much easier to find your way around. The options for menus are clear and follow a consistent format.
Structuring your school website isn't necessarily the easiest thing in the world and so we have created a two-part series on how you can get this right.
Use this as your starting point for thinking about your school website structure and remember the golden rule; never throw content on to your school website without thought or reason.
Here’s something to ponder ...
If you don't care what your website looks like it will raise questions
Have you heard the expression “your website doesn’t reflect who you are as a school?” It is something that inspectors are well known for saying to schools who’s websites don’t look great and certainly, those that don't reflect everything that is going on in school.
It is so important to think about who you are as a school.
What do you stand for? Think about your vision, ethos and values. Think about what your school means to your community.
Your website should reflect all of that.
Not only because inspectors demand that it does, but because it is what all your school website audiences are looking for! There are so many things to consider when thinking about what your school website should look like. We've written about that plenty!
But, as a starting point, make sure your website has a clear mission statement and that your photos and your content demonstrate that is what you're all about so you make this the first impression for every person who visits your website.
One of the key things we have learned over the years in conversations with inspectors, HMIs and Trust Directors is that issues with your school website will very often point to issues in school.
Schools that are highly effective very rarely have poor websites. The counter is true. Schools that are less effective, often have poorer websites.
Inspectors know that.
That means when inspectors are looking at your website, if they don't see a reflection of who you are as a school, or if there is no evidence of what you say you are delivering in school, they will start to ask more, deeper questions about what the reality is in school.
Take safeguarding. If you have an out of date safeguarding policy in school an inspector will seriously question, before coming to your school, whether you have safeguarding as the top priority it should be.
Check out: Check out: https://burrowmoor.net
There is no clear policies page on the website. A reasonable, immediate assumption? This school does not have a good handle on their policy management and it is vital that we look deeper into this school.
As an alternative, look at Isle of Ely School.
This is a clearly laid out page, one-click from the homepage via a dropdown menu and with further options clearly visible down the left side of the page. Everything is in its place, easy to find and available to view on the website. It is also regularly checked and audited to ensure things don't drift. This is how it is done!
And, so onto the issue we see more often than any other single issue. There are many, many well-intentioned and passionate school staff doing their very best to maintain a website which is just too much like hard work.
Sometimes that is the school website software that has been chosen. Sometimes it is a leadership and management issue.
More often than not it is a member of staff who is tasked with managing the school website without the proper training and support to make a roaring success of the job.
Can we encourage you, as school leaders to support and provide the relevant tools and training for the person who is in this role in your school.
If you're thinking about who that might be, take a look at our post, Who is the best person to manage your school website?
For us, we love school website managers and so we have created a resource which aims to equip, train and offer ongoing support for school website managers. We want school website managers to be the very best they can be and that means you need someone designated to the role, trained up and supported by a team of experts who know what it takes to manage a beautiful, engaging, compliant, rich school website.
Find out more about The School Website Manager Course here.
If you need to get started straight away and need advice on how to make your school website compliant, head over to The School Website Requirements Guide.
This guide is packed full of the very latest information to help you get started in keeping your website compliant. It is current, trusted by 1000s of UK schools and is the very best place to start. And it's free. Head over to download your free copy of The School Website Requirements Guide.
Simply add your email and you'll get expert advice weekly, direct to your inbox.