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Secret weapon tells the story

Knutsford high school, Knutsford, Cheshire

THE primary winner (see top right) started by looking at what The TES said a good prospectus should be. Knutsford high school went one better. They asked the people destined to read it.

John Shanahan, the school's community director, explained that when a group of staff assembled to consider the audience for the brochure they decided to survey Year 6 parents in feeder primary schools and their own Year 7 parents to see how well they were communicating.

This research informed their views on what Knutsford's prospectus should be: strong on positive visual messages about pupils reflecting the school's ethos; a design that is uncluttered. Knutsford's prospectus probably contains half as many words as the average secondary school's - and fewer than many primary ones.

"We looked at a number of other prospectuses and many of them were too busy," says Mr Shanahan.

The resulting 24 pages plus cover devotes more than 50 per cent of the space to the bold use of large black and white photographs. Eleven of those pages consit solely of a single A4 photograph of a classroom in action.

Parents said they did not want colour and the resulting two-colour production (black and blue) is stylish and professional - and cheaper than full colour.

Some prospectuses are so glossy and expensively produced that they must prompt parents to wonder if the school is spending its money wisely - particularly if the contents do not live up to the wrapper.

Knutsford's is one of the more opulent but is cost-effective. It incorporates a pocket in the cover to contain the ephemera such as exam results and student destinations so that investment in the design will last for more than one year. Also tucked into that pocket comes what may be Knutsford's secret weapon: an alternative prospectus produced by eight Year 7 pupils. This includes their first impressions of the school, "all you need to know about the subjects you'll study", a guide to life outside the classroom and a day in the life of a Year 7 pupil. Clearly Knutsford has not overlooked the fact that parental choice is often guided by pupils.

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