Friday 2 October 2015
The rise of the internet and social media have offered many opportunities for schools to “showcase” themselves to potential families around the world, and to keep parents up-to-date with exciting new developments and innovations.
However, it has also led to a new means of evaluating schools – what could be termed the “Click Google” method – where parents trawl through a variety of online sources, some reliable, others much less so.
Parents have always been available to take advice from existing networks of families in destination countries, however the anonymity of online “advice” has seen the rise of three potential pitfalls.
Information taken out of context
Stories on schools – both positive and negative – have the potential to float in the ether untethered by context or perspective.
Any rumour, even if unfair or unsubstantiated, can calcify and become a permanent mark on a school’s record. This has occurred in the last year with both a leading international school in the UK and a leading English boarding school.
Our team at Dean Associates spends time evaluating school discussions on online forums, for example Mumsnet.
Some can be helpful, but it is depressing to see how quickly a positive, open question searching for advice can be struck by arguments based on personal choice, social class and limited information.
Increasingly, we find ourselves unpicking difficult situations for families who have made housing decisions based on the “catchment information” that many estate agency websites – Rightmove, Locrating – publish.
This information seems to be compiled with no recognition of the nuances of year-on-year admissions patterns or the particular admissions criteria of individual schools.
Although the websites do add the necessary caveats, these are often lodged in the “small print” and ignored.
We are also noticing that “Click Google” research is leading families to make instant decisions, often bypassing more traditional, tried and tested means of evaluating a school – namely proper assessment of websites, reviews of reports and academic metrics, and, most importantly, a personal visit to see the classrooms in action.