Goodness knows, school leaders have had it tough for the last 10 months. As is regularly lamented and discussed on social media, the late and often last-minute updates from the Department for Education are reminiscent of the times when I would catch the public bus to school. They would never arrive in a timely fashion, often making me late and when they did come, for some reason, a whole bunch of them would arrive at the same time.
Last week in another untimely update, the DfE announced a series of new things that they expect (statutorily) to appear on your school website.
Making updates to your school website in itself, shouldn’t prove to be too much of a problem for most schools. Whether you have one designed and maintained in-house or you have a bespoke or ‘off the shelf’ solution, adding content normally isn’t the issue.
The DfE’s guidance isn’t precisely clear however what needs to be updated as it depends upon what type of school you are as to what information needs to be added. To help, there are two specific documents which need to be examined:
What academies, free schools and colleges should publish online
What maintained schools must publish online
In both of these documents, there is a lot of information that needs unpicking and they do spend some time explaining exactly what and how these things should be displayed and in what level of detail. It is unclear what their motives are for adding in these new things however, as a statutory requirement, it is incumbent upon schools to ensure that these additions are made to your school websites.
the best advice I can give is to not just see this as a box-ticking exercise
Ostensibly, the requirements for things that are on your site are to be there for your key stakeholders, such as students, parents, guardians and other members and users within your school and the local community. Another key stakeholder who will be looking at your site is the Ofsted inspection team. A great way to ensure you offset any potential questions the Inspectorate may ask of your school is to ensure you not just have the correct information on your site but rather than seeing these things as a box-ticking exercise, why not see it as an opportunity to clearly represent your school life, its vision, ethos and values. It is a media-rich environment in which you get to tell your own story and can draw upon the insights of all of your school’s stakeholders.
The furore about these update requirements that have been published may be well placed but it is true that the Government publishes updates about school website requirements often a few times a year and it is always the job of schools to ensure school websites meet the requirements.
Usually in September, but they can happen at any time and in these unusual times we live in, particularly as some of the updates are pertinent to the pandemic, it is understandable why they have been added to the list of requirements on your school website.
Coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium
The guidance states that:
If your school gets the coronavirus (COVID-19) catch-up premium grant in the academic year 2020 to 2021, you should publish details of:
- how it is intended that the grant will be spent
- how the effect of this expenditure on the educational attainment of those pupils at the school will be assessed
Additionally, for Free Schools, Academies and Trusts:
You must publish how many employees have a gross annual salary and benefits of £100,000 or more. You should publish these figures in £10,000 increments. More details are included in paragraph 2.32 of the Academies financial handbook.
Whilst the two above new requirements are there it is also important to note that some of the pre-existing sections have been updated as well. There are updated sections on:
- ‘Admission arrangements’,
- ‘Ofsted reports’,
- ‘Exam and assessment results’,
- ‘Pupil Premium’,
- ‘Year 7 literacy and numeracy catch-up premium’,
- ‘PE and Sport Premium for primary schools’,
- ‘Equality objectives’ and
- ‘Special educational needs and disabilities (SEND)’
…have all been updated too, so I would also advise checking what you have currently in place (as you might not have looked at it in a while!) and then amending your content on your site accordingly.
Of paramount importance to remember, your school website is your window to the world. It is your opportunity to share your stories, your vision, values, ethos, successes and to offset any questions you may face from all stakeholders in your community.
Yes, there are statutory duties, but the best advice I can give is to not just see this as a box-ticking exercise, but when, for example, sharing about your Curriculum, let the site itself reinforce your statements about that area. If for example, you are a school with a particular focus on outdoor learning or sports or technology – let that shine through in all areas of your website, not just in the section where you’re required to talk about your Curriculum.
Your website should ideally be an extension of your school life and it gives you a golden opportunity to inform and educate others about what makes your school so amazing before anyone ever visits the site (not that many will under a pandemic!).
I hope you’ve found this post useful. I don’t undertake school website development work but if you would like some recommendations of great companies who can support you, please get in touch via my contact form and I would be happy to share a few of those with you.
Thanks for reading.