Digitally transforming the high school admissions process – FE News

As parents and guardians focus on securing the school places their children want, which can understandably be a stressful time; an influx of requests and questions ensues. For the Dudley Council Schools Admissions Team, it is no different. While we want to respond to every phone call and email and dedicate the time necessary to resolve every query, we have often found that the volume can be far too high to provide effective and efficient responses to every contact during our periods. the busiest.

It became clear that we needed an updated way to manage communications around school admissions in 2020, both to inform and reassure parents, and to support our staff whose resources were becoming increasingly strained. As part of a collaboration between the School Admissions team and the Communications and Public Affairs team, we sought an all-digital approach, using social media and email communications delivery. As a result, we set up the Granicus govDelivery platform, which could provide all the tools we needed for a transparent digital communication campaign.

On-screen resident communications

Digital by default became our approach as we entered the school admission period during the pandemic. We have embraced digital processes and found that they work well both for primary communications and as a business tool to drive behavior change by encouraging others to connect.

Most of the transfer of online communications has been through our electronic newsletters. In the past, we’ve used e-newsletters for advisors and for the public, but with little to capture and a hard-to-use interface, there wasn’t much benefit. We had to go through the process of rebuilding our subscriber base, which was daunting at first, but we soon realized there was an appetite for email updates, so growth was rapid. .

Our newsletters, first and foremost, aimed to inform parents of key dates regarding school admissions – such as application deadlines, key information and when they expect to hear a result. This meant that much of the information parents were phoning for was already in their inbox in a timely manner, reducing panic and phone call volume for the admissions team and the call center at the advice.

Among our successful email newsletters was a focus on general admissions information as part of a Covid-19 update, which was opened by 5,632 people. We also posted an admissions reminder that was opened by 1,163 people.

As we approach National Offering Day (March 1, 2021), we have put in place further reminders to parents about the date of Offering Day, as well as what to look out for. wait and next steps. This was prepared as the team is normally inundated with inquiries about when to expect results and how to appeal. Communication by email was therefore essential both to disseminate information quickly and to relieve pressure on the team. Again, we saw great engagement with our reminder email newsletter at the end of February, achieving a 71% open rate and 782 link clicks. After the offers, we sent another with details on how to accept or decline their child’s school place, which was opened by 2,384 parents (64% open rate).

It is evident that there is a real appetite among our residents for online communications, with the busiest admissions periods seeing more than half of parents opening emails. Additionally, the move to digital has resulted in less direct communication with the schools admissions team via calls and emails by more than a quarter, which has eased the pressure on the team to ‘she is working on other tasks.

Create a hybrid system

Following this, we decided to further integrate our school admissions web page into our e-newsletters, which grew from the information in the e-mails – again, this helped to meet to the majority of questions parents would otherwise have directed to the team. We also included the web link on social media and as a result we saw a significant increase in page views. Between September 1 and September 30, 2020, the page had 7,332 pageviews, compared to 5,812 during the same period the previous year, an increase of 26%.

Our e-newsletters are a key part of making our communications digital, and we use them across social media and marketing, making our approach a hybrid approach where all digital communications complement each other and maximize reach.

Alongside schools, we have also created information sections such as updates on parks and reserves and green spaces, which have had similar success. Many residents sign up for these topics in multiple areas of the council, showing an eagerness to be informed of a variety of topics through this channel. Across the board and the community, we see how a mostly digitized process can save time and resources, bring clarity to complex topics and reduce paperwork.

By Amy Shaw, Dudley Metropolitan Borough Council Press Officer

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