Thursday, July 9, 2009

Re-branding a school

So... here's a scenario.. a school is delivering great results, has a dedicated bunch of teachers, a strong management structure but a poor reputation in the general public. It is the butt of low socio-economic jokes. When you tell someone that you work there, they quietly question whether you are crazy or too stupid to get a job elsewhere.

I discussed this with an ex-principal of the school and they said that they did not re brand the school because too much work had gone into repairing the name of the school in the community. He conceded that the biggest detrimental factor to growth of the school was it's postcode. It sounded ok at the time, but when I thought about it the immediate came to mind..

a) we attract few academic students
b) the general public associates the suburb with low ability students and behavioural issues
c) there is very little positive media coverage (translated: none that I can remember) of the school

So as a marketing problem - we have the product but not the customers and are poorly positioned to attract new students. I went to school at Mercy College - the sisters of Mercy are a reputable organisation and nobody knows that the school is in Koondoola. They have 1500 students now and have conquered the postcode issue.

Why should we feel pride in names such as Balga, Girrawheen, Koondoola, Lockridge, Kwinana, Clarkson that have social issues attached to them, when the focus could be taken away from the suburb name and the school can stand on its own name and reputation in the community without the stigma of suburb names? Yes, a lot of work has been done in the school to improve its image and performance, and we do feel pride in the school itself - but a name is not a school, it is but one facet of its public image.

State schools as they gain more independance will need to face the reality of no students - no school. If state schools are to compete fairly with private schools for students (and not face issues like that has been exacerbated by the half cohort) then they must be able to attract students based on academic programmes and have methods to ensure that students under forced intake (ie. live in the area and no other school will take them) have a programme suitable for them that does not disrupt students attracted to promised academic programmes. Changing the name to distance schools from its location (where the location is seen as a negative marketing factor) seems to make a lot of sense.

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