Remember, Grasshopper,a school is not a tea towel

14th November 1997 at 00:00
PUBLICISING YOUR SCHOOL. David Medgett. Heinemann Pounds 16.99.

STRATEGIC MARKETING FOR SCHOOLS. Brent Davies and Linda Ellison. Pitman Pounds 16.99.

Schools have to attract pupils to survive, grow and develop. Increased autonomy, more open enrolment, greater parental preference and overt or covert selection have all led to more competition between schools. Both these books try to show schools how to fare better in the market .

Publicising Your School is designed to help a school present a positive image and "create a climate of good opinion about itself". Strategic Marketing for Schools is more complex. Marketing is set in the broader context of strategic planning and examined in terms of managing the relationship between a school and its clients - its pupils, parents and the community.

David Medgett provides sound advice on handling the media and dealing with publicity. There are also sections on presenting the school image and on promoting it through an attractive environment. The book gives guidance on producing the prospectus and other publications. Useful checklists are provided for organising events such as concerts and sports days.

Publicising Your School retreads some of the ground covered in an earlier, and better book, in the Heinemann School Management Series, by Marland and Rogers - Marketing the School. Good publicity is, of course, important and the book is helpful, but parts are mundane. I now know more about promotional tea towels - they can be used to illustrate educational homilies, for instance - than I wish to know.

Brent Davies and Linda Ellison in Strategic Marketing for Schools tell us: "Second place is first loser". We are exhorted to: "take out your socket set and ratchet up for action" and "go for gold". Some teachers may be uncomfortable with "How to Drive your Competition Crazy", or with the description of A-level English as the "cash cow" of the school. The book is, however, a far more perceptive book than the "nice guys come second" school of management writing. It is an intelligently written, useful, practical guide. The authors have previously produced excellent work on school planning. Here they place marketing within the broader context of school development planning.

There are good theoretical introductory chapters defining and describing the process of marketing and demonstrating the importance of creating a client-focused culture and a proactive staff. Although the authors do not stress the point, placing the client at the centre of a school's orientation has a clear relationship with Total Quality Management.

Sections on marketing techniques and promotional approaches such as prospectuses and open evenings are well written.

Strategic Marketing for Schools will help a school do market research, analyse its strengths and weaknesses, assess competitors and ascertain clients' needs. Appendices contain surveys and questionnaires which can be used with staff, parents and students.

Proponents of market forces argue that competition raises standards. There has, however, been a concomitant decline in collaboration between schools. At a time of conflicting demands on scarce resources, perhaps we should all be working together to promote the benefits of expenditure on the education system as a whole as well as marketing schools.

* The writer is headteacher of The Nobel School, Stevenage

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