Private schools across Australia are under pressure to remain competitive, however many lack the marketing and strategy expertise to grow.
A tell-tale sign that a school is succumbing to this pressure is consecutive falls in enrolments. Reasons for this fall can be multifaceted. Families may no longer have the discretionary income to send their children to a fee paying school. Valuable word of mouth recommendations to new families may not happen any longer. Cutbacks on staff and services become necessary as enrolments decline, further reducing the school’s capability to excel. Feedback from families about the school’s performance overall can become negative. It becomes difficult to reverse the cycle.
This paper outlines 6 strategies that can combat falling enrolments and help schools reposition themselves to become a place families enjoy and recommend.
Research: start by understanding your community
Understanding your community is a fundamental first step to lay the foundations for your school’s future. Interview and survey your school’s families; other local families with children; and other active community players, to learn what is really needed for your school and area.
Information from this research will help you to identify which families you should target to grow enrolments. We group similar families into cohorts called ‘target segments’.
|Research matters: Finding out what your families and community want from your school is fundamental to designing the right growth strategies.|
It is much easier to plan for growth when you know who to focus on and what they want.
Your value proposition is core to what type of school you are and what you offer families. All other strategies hinge on this. Decide who your ideal student and family are, then create the right value proposition for them. To adjust your value proposition, start by:
Getting the basic things your families need up to the right standard.
Your classrooms, outdoor areas, curriculum, facilities, teachers, and leadership team, amongst other things, need to meet quality standards set out by the government. This paper assumes your school has met the standards needed to operate.
Getting the things that are overdone down to the minimum, and putting those resources into something else more useful.
Despite being located in the heart of Silicon Valley, the world’s high-tech epicentre, the Waldorf School of the Peninsula believes that the use of technology in education is overdone. Apple, eBay, Google, and Yahoo employees send their children to a school with no screens, tablets, or smartphones.
Instead of relying on software to deliver their lessons, the Waldorf School invests its resources in great teachers who focus on student care. All subjects are taught using games, projects, and exploration. For example, certain maths principles are taught through knitting, languages are practised during games, and storytelling plays a central role. They believe this is the best way to develop creativity and innovation: skills that are valued by technology companies.
Neither the teachers nor the parents are worried about the students lagging behind in their technology education. They claim technology is getting simpler and more intuitive every year, so students will easily catch up. For them, it is more important develop a child as a person.
Considering the rush of most schools to use technology in the classroom, the Waldorf School’s approach is an interesting alternative that is valuable for their target segment.
Clintondale, located in a suburb of Detroit, pioneered a flipped classroom model at the K–12 level. A financially challenged public school, three-quarters of whose students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch, Clintondale sought out a radical solution to its then-failing educational model. It abandoned the traditional classwork/homework paradigm, turning the standard learning model on its head.
Starting with its ninth-grade class, Clintondale had students watch teachers’ lessons at home; then, they would come into school to do “homework” with the guidance of their teachers. Clintondale used its teachers’ time to focus on coaching and problem solving rather than lecturing. The children were provided with the food and technology they needed to perform well.
Traditional lessons that were previously overdone became simpler to teach online, and teachers could coach students more effectively in the time they had at school.
Schools that strive to meet the needs of everyone across the board, without thinking of what their community truly values, tend to flounder. Schools that are renowned for rugby; Japanese language; developing social adeptness; robotics; or pastoral care, are beacons for families who resonate with those things. Developing a reputation will create a niche that will encourage those families to enrol. Your research will help to indicate what your community would value. This is as much about working out which families you can’t serve well, as much as it is about building a magnet for those you want to focus on.
The Queensland Academy for Creative Industries (QACI) in Brisbane offers a curriculum focused on the creative industries (dance, drama, music and art). Students are also able to take the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme, meaning they can easily apply to international universities.
They have specialised in two valuable areas: Parents send their children to QACI when they have shown a competence or ambition in the creative industries, or if they wish to study abroad. Overseas expatriates to Australia send their children to QACI because the curriculum follows international standards and allows their children to move schools more easily when families are reposted. Local families send their children to QACI to help them develop their creative interests alongside their high school study.
Partnering for the future
We care for our clients’ business as our business. We think and act like business partners, not academic advisors. We share our clients’ aspirations, work to understand their reality, and align our incentives with their objectives — so they know we’re in this together.
We work around the world and each role is an adventure. Personal impact, mentoring, and learning a different, empowered way of working are just a few of the benefits of building a career at Coriolis Innovation.
Image: Taking in the sights. Dr Robert Dew of Coriolis Innovation and Cyrus Allen of Strativity working on a Janssen Pharmaceutical project in Seoul, South Korea.