Helping Abbey College with their Education Communications Campaign

Brief and Objectives

Abbey College is a larger than average-sized secondary school in the market town of Ramsey, Cambridgeshire. The college approached Athene Communications with a unique challenge. It was a successful college that had just achieved 4 out of 5 areas rated Good by Ofsted, its best Ofsted report for many years, and was expecting its best ever results (in the top 25% of schools for Progress 8 figure and its Sixth Form ranked in the top 4% nationally) in Summer 2016.

However it was clear that, despite this, the college had lost the confidence of, and strong relationship with, its community. ParentView data during the year (2015-16) confirmed this – with a majority (53%) of parents not recommending the college to others. The college was also struggling to meet its PAN (Published Admissions Number: The most students it can take per year) which was 180.

Our core outcome objectives were to:

  • Achieve at least 67 per cent positive responses from parents on Ofsted’s ParentView by June 2017
  • Achieve the college’s PAN target for the year of 180 pupils

Our output objectives were:

  • To build stronger relationships with the local community by hosting non-educational community events.
  • To project consistent and positive messages about the college:
    • Achieve at least 200 likes on the college’s Facebook Page or 500 followers on Twitter
  • Build stronger relationships with local stakeholders by:
    • Sending them 3 updates/newsletters per year
    • Inviting them to at least 2 events at the college

 Strategy and tactics

Athene held a communications workshop with a representative group of staff from the college. Our workshop and research showed that while the college was making excellent progress in improving standards and outcomes internally, it had lost some of the relationships and links into the community needed to maintain its reputation and harness goodwill – particularly in a close community such as Ramsey.

Through proactive engagement with the community and heightened visibility we looked to re-establish some of the community’s pride in the college and re-position the college as a key player at the heart of its community.

Regular, positive local magazine and print coverage was established, including a monthly column in the community-circulated Ramsey Informer. Further coverage included spots on BBC Radio Cambridgeshire for their remembrance service, and ITV Anglia for their A-Level exam results. Local newspaper coverage focused on positive student achievement and behaviour.

Regular letters to parents, councillors and stakeholders, as well as a termly newsletter were established, again focusing on student achievement and activity in the college. We also helped the school establish a ‘Student PR Group’ which with our help, was tasked to run 3 events.

Measurement and Evaluation 

Since we launched our strategy, Abbey College has seen significant improvement in community engagement and – most importantly, responses on Ofsted’s ParentView:

  • 150 responses in 2016/17
  • 90% of parents would now recommend Abbey College to other parents, compared to 47% in 2015/16
  • 89% of parents feel their child is taught well at Abbey College compared with just 43% in 15/16
  • 92% of parents feel they now receive valuable information about their child’s progress; compared to 45% in 15/16

As a result of the improved reputation Abbey College is now 40% over-subscribed for the 2017/18 school year. This means that 250 applications were made by parents for the coming year.