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Why do schools need PR?

23/01/2024

“Yeah, but why do schools need PR?” asked my 16-year-old as I told him about my visit to The Bemrose School, where I had taken part in mock interviews with Year 10 pupils at the Derby school, writes Kerry Ganly.

I was one of several volunteers – others were representing companies such as Toyota, Lubrizol and Severn Trent – who had given up their afternoon to speak with the young people about their hopes after leaving school.

The mock interviews, where pupils get the chance to meet with local employers, are a regular occurrence at The Bemrose School.

Netherthorpe School pupil Will Barlow, 16, overcame all the odds to take his GCSEs

The story perhaps isn’t one of the most exciting stories that we have written for the school since we first started working with them many years ago, but it’s important that it is shared; it can help build relationships and create connections, and it demonstrates the great depth of careers advice available to young people at The Bemrose School. For those companies involved, it shows that they care about their community and are keen to give back.

Everyone is a winner and, bonus point, good news stories are looked upon favourably by government inspectors Ofsted. We have it on good authority that, prior to a school inspection, Ofsted will do a quick Google News search and if you have managed to populate it with good news stories, then it’s a tick in the box before inspectors even arrive on site.

Our good work for local schools in helping to raise their profile has even been mentioned in an Ofsted report.

We know that, whether you’re a school leader, business owner, employee of a company, a pupil or parent, reading good news can make you feel valued. It can empower and help with staff/pupil retention and recruitment.

And, speaking as a parent of teenagers who rarely inform you of what’s going on in their school, it’s a good way of getting the inside knowledge and reaffirming your decision to send your children to a particular school.

One of the personal highlights for me when working with schools – and we have several on our books here at Penguin PR; from primary and secondary schools to multi-academy trusts and special schools – is A-Level and GCSE results day.

The buzz from being on a deadline – the media are keen to receive information on a school’s performance as soon as possible – reminds me of my days working as a journalist. For those old enough to remember the Derby Telegraph’s Sporting Green, it’s a bit like how it was at 5pm in the newsroom after a Derby County match; supporters wanted their match-day momento to pour over in the pub, so it was vital we had the copy on the page and the paper printed as close to 5.30pm as possible.

Last year I visited Netherthorpe School in Stavely when I assisted BBC East Midlands Today, BBC Look North, ITV and local radio who were visiting the school to hear the remarkable story of 16-year-old Will Barlow.

Will’s story was a heartwarming tale of overcoming the odds. The youngster, who had two years of school disrupted by treatment for a rare cancer, had gained eight GCSEs after just five weeks of studying and staff at the school – part of the Cavendish Learning Trust – were full of admiration for the teen.

Headteacher Helen McVicar described Will as ‘the epitome of resilience’ and the story was shared both locally and nationally. It demonstrated the commitment and dedication of staff at the school in supporting Will and his family and, as their PR expert, I was able to direct the narrative to ensure that this message was consistent in all the media coverage.

Without Will there was no story but without PR that story might never have been told.

Our job is to give that story – and the school – the recognition it deserves. We’re storytellers and there are hundreds of stories in schools that are just waiting to be told…

This blog was written and shared by Kerry Ganly. Do you want to find out more about how a blog can help your business? Find out how we can help by getting in touch.

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