Persuading parents – using what we know about school choice

This time of year, with application deadlines for admission to various year groups (depending on the type of school), leaders will turn their attention to open evenings.

Open evenings provide the opportunity to sell the school. Many schools compete with others locally for admission numbers and persuading parents to choose your school and can have significant budget implications. Get it right and resourcing is more straight forward; get it wrong and admitting fewer than the PAN can leave a dent in the budget. COVID19 means reduced opportunities for prospective parents visiting the school and so leaders need to think differently.

Regardless of the format of open evenings, persuading parents to enrol their children is an important job so it is prudent to understand what parents want. Luckily, that research exists to guide our decision making.

What matters to parents?

1. Location

According to ParentPing, location is mentioned by 71% of parents. NfER research from 2017 suggests that location is more important to parents with a lower household income. While location is out of our control, leaders can draw attention to how easy the school is to access by various travel means, including travel times from various points.

2. Inclusive ethos

According to ParentPing, an inclusive ethos is mentioned by 68% of parents. NfER research suggests that an inclusive ethos is more important to mothers. Leaders can draw attention to their aims, values and vision.

3. Effectiveness of the senior leadership team

According to ParentPing, the effectiveness of the senior leadership team is mentioned by 56% of parents. NfER research suggests that this is more important to parents with a higher household income. Leaders can simply state how effective senior leaders are, what each leader is responsible for and give concrete examples of their success. Supplementing this with parental opinion or official judgements from an OFSTED report can cement what leaders say in the minds of prospective parents.

4. Discipline and behaviour

According to ParentPing, behaviour is mentioned by 53% of parents. NfER research suggests that behaviour is more important to parents with a higher household income, as well as fathers. Leaders can clearly set out their approach to managing behaviour, including rules and routines. Again, capturing the opinions of children, parents and staff on behaviour can supplement leaders’ statements. Of course, positive Ofsted comments are also influential.

5. Well qualified teachers

After the headteacher, it’s class teachers that are most important to prospective teachers so drawing attention to how well qualified and trained staff are is an important message. NfER research suggests that having well qualified teachers is more important to parents with a lower household income. Here, leaders can also talk about the quality of training that the provide for staff which can be supplemented by teacher testimonials.

6. Exam results / Ofsted rating

NfER research suggest that this is more important to parents with a higher household income. Results and Ofsted outcomes two of the few comparative measures that parents can use to make a decision so if they are favourable, it is well worth sharing.

8. What do parents say about the school?

NfER research suggests that parents with higher household income are more likely to attend open evenings, discuss with other parents and to do their own research. Therefore including the opinions of current parents in any presentation helps to ensure that leaders’ statements are backed up.

Using what matters to parents

Whether you are presenting live to prospective parents or creating film to do the same job, it pays to know your audience and what matters to them. Using the research data from the NfER and Parent Ping, this the running order of our video that replaces open evenings this year. It aims to weave together the factors that parents find important in a narrative structure – because the brain is predisposed to story – that is memorable for parents.

1. Start with ethos

  • Child enters the school and is greeted by the Headteacher
  • Headteacher explaining the aim and values of the school and the vision for the future (speaking to camera / over slides)

2. Explain the expertise and successes of the senior leadership team

  • Child is greeted by other senior leaders as they move through the playground
  • Headteacher introduces each senior leader and highlights their expertise
  • Other leaders give concrete examples of their success and talk about why they work at Courthouse (perhaps the latter over some slides)

3. Behaviour

  • Child in class working with footage of how children behave
  • Headteacher explains expectations of behaviour, including rules and key routines
  • Include testimonials from children, teachers and parents (either direct to camera or written snippets on slides)
  • Headteacher links this back to the effectiveness of the SLT

4. Quality of work

  • Child in class with footage of children working, children speaking about their work and images of great pieces
  • Headteacher tells the story of SATs results and Ofsted grading, including positive comments (talking over slides)
  • Headteacher tells the story of how this was achieved (linking back to effectiveness of SLT) including how well staff are trained
  • Include testimonials from staff

5. Inclusion

  • Child receiving some additional support
  • Headteacher or inclusion leader explaining additional provision for children that require extra help (talking over slides)

5. Bonus material

  • End of the day, parents on the playground including any other testimonials to reinforce what’s been said so far
  • Footage of the child attending a club, including talking over slides of the detail of the wider offer

6. Closing messages

  • An invitation to visit the school
  • Direction to how parents can find out more (website etc)

Combining the best of what is known about how parents make their choice of school with a memorable narrative structure could make all the difference to school admissions.

Download Parent Ping here:

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: