The ISQ 2018 Parent Survey –  ‘What parents want’ –  released in February 2019, was a much-welcomed, longitude study exploring why parents choose independent schools.

This benchmark survey from Independent Schools Queensland (ISQ) will help school marketers make informed decisions about where they should invest their marketing time and expenditure, in order to drive enrolment opportunities. It was also the first study to ever measure the influence of social media on school choice. 

How does the ‘What parents want’ survey affect your school marketing decisions?

A number of schools are still to factor the survey findings into their planning. To help, we wanted to share with you our expert opinions on the ISQ 2018 Parent Survey findings and some recommendations.

The most influential information sources parents rely on are:

67% Family, friends and colleagues

54% Other parents with children at school

47% Open Days

40% School website and social media

24% Family members already attending the school

This data helps you determine your key marketing strategies for the year. As you can see, a strong investment needs to go towards Open Days/School Tours, your website and your social media. In addition, school publications such as prospectuses and brochures were also highly read.

Your website and social media are more than just a source of information. Apart from having interesting and informative blog and social media content, you should be using your website and social media channels as sources of advertising. We recommend all schools invest strongly in developing a digital strategy to capture attention from your key target audience who are on the web and Facebook reading, shopping, viewing content etc.. Google Adwords, remarketing and paid social media can create strong brand awareness and conversions to click throughs, registrations and engagement/sharing.

The most powerful pieces of data above – 67% rely on family, friends and colleagues, and 54% other parents with children at school – underscores something that a lot of schools don’t address. Your number one target audience for enrolments is your own community. What strategies do you have to ‘enlist’ your school ambassadors in helping with word of mouth and your enrolment pipeline? And by this we don’t just mean your school newsletter or magazine. You need powerful direct strategies to create positive word-of-mouth for your school. Think of it as your public relations, both direct and digitally. Think video, perhaps.

School selection timeframe starts up to two years before, if not earlier (9% before birth and 15% from birth). This means for your key intake years of Prep, Year 5 and Year 7 you need to be thinking two years out about targeting and pitching your enrolment message to the right audience in the right channel.

Targeted strategies, communications, open days and information evenings for these audiences are all pertinent ideas.

The most important factors why parents choose an independent school have remained fairly consistent over the years. The one area though that has risen through the ranks is the high quality of teachers. This correlates with who parents most want to meet (presumably at an Open Day/school tour):  Classroom Teachers, whereas previously it was the Principal. It is critical you have the right people available at your Open Days and school tours.

Lastly, first impressions of your school count – this is when parents come to visit and also how your school is represented on your website and in your communications. It is worth investing in quality professional photography to capture your unique culture, personality and assets. It is also worthwhile having a specific section on your website and in your prospectus on your facilities – outlining them all, especially if they are unique to your school/area.

ISQ 2018 Parent Survey – what’s missing?

Of course, one of the main areas this survey does not explore is why parents choose a state school over an independent school. This could be from the outset, or after a child has already attended an independent school. Anecdotal evidence may suggest a variety of reasons including positive reputation of the State school (including Academies and their offering) high fees, dissatisfaction with teachers, bullying peer groups and more.

It is some of these issues which independent schools need to address in their offering, in their communication with their community, and in their external marketing. They need to be clear on how they position themselves and how they counter these issues within their schools. Be on the front foot and lead with these points in Principal’s Open Day speeches or in your key messages in your Prospectus.

We’re very grateful for ISQ’s survey as it helps provide insights into the minds of our target audience. Research enables you to make informed decisions on why you need to do the things you need to do, where you should focus, and where you should invest. To download the Key Findings from the ISQ website, please click here.

Look Education specialises in helping schools address their marketing needs. Call us today to help you with:

  1. Your Marketing Strategy to address your unique challenges
  2. Open Day marketing campaigns
  3. Websites
  4. Prospectuses and targeted brochures for Prep and Year 7/Senior enrolments
  5. Digital marketing – Google Adwords, Remarketing, Social media advertising
  6. School photography
  7. School videos
  8. Public Relations – strategies and advice