Another year is upon us and another year of planning for Open Days, Open Mornings, Twilight Tours, Principal’s Meet and Greets, Come and Play Days and more.

Your goal as school marketers is to entice prospective parents to your school, get them on campus and showcase your key offerings, facilities, differentiation and more. It’s about connecting with quality, right-fit families, over quantity.

Many schools we meet with have already mapped out their plans on how they propose to do this, based on…well…what they’ve done before.

Have you got your Open Day/Tour strategy right? Is it what parents actually want?

We thought we’d ask parents (via a couple of social media surveys) what they actually want. Their answers might surprise you. Hopefully it will give you some concrete ideas on what you could do at your school this year to maximise prospective parent engagement and future enrolment potential.

When do parents want to attend an Open Day/Tour?

75% of parents preferably want to see your school in operation – which means having an Open Day/Morning or Tour during school hours. Parents want to get a feel for the students (and how they conduct themselves), staff, values and overall atmosphere.

And for those that can’t come during school hours, they want to see it on a night or weekend so both parents can attend when they’re not at work.

Recommendation: This means you need to have a dual strategy – during school operation and at least one ‘open event’ not in school hours.

How long would parents allocate for an Open Day/Tour?

Most parents indicated they would allocate 1-3 hours for something like this depending on the size of the school.

Recommendation: Allocate 1.5-2 hours for a Tour and 2-3 hours for a bigger Open Day experience.

What type of format do they prefer for the Open Day/Tour?

Parents prefer a talk by the Principal initially and then to break into small groups of about 10 to tour the school. They would like teachers available to answer questions.

Parents said the ones that work best moved in a specific route around the school as opposed to one escort per family and going all over the place. You get a feel for the school when it’s a circuit. This also minimises overcrowding and a sense of being overwhelmed.

Who do your parents want to be shown around by – students or staff?

In short, both. Parents want a mix for various reasons. Parents are cynical and do know that the students who show you around are hand-picked. However, they do like to ask the students questions and hear their responses.

“You learn a great deal about the school from the students. They’re very honest.”

“You can ask them what they love about the school, what the school does well and what they could improve.”

Parents also want the teachers there so they can ask them questions as well.

Recommendation: Put a mix forward of your best student and teacher brand ambassadors. Ensure they are prepared beforehand with a training session on key messages and how to run the Tour.

What’s a good number for a group tour of parents?

Most parents were unanimous: it seems around 10 is the magic number as it is more personalised. They want to be able to ask questions and interact with the students and staff on the tour.

Do parents want to meet with, talk to and hear from the Principal?

An overwhelming YES to this question, however the Principal needs to keep any speech brief. Some suggested a small group Q&A session as well. Additionally, some parents indicated they would want a one-on-one meeting with the Principal should they be ready to enrol to discuss specific questions on curriculum etc.

“If Principals are interested, enthusiastic and able to share their valuable time with parents, it shows how they are organised and value the whole family as being crucial to the child’s learning.”

What things do parents want to see and learn about the school?

Parents come to a school to see students at work and at play and also to see student-teacher relationships. They want to see how calm the learning environment is and how positive the classroom relationships are.

Parents have a diverse range of topics that they want to know about and they aren’t just your classroom set ups, your facilities and WOW factors. They want to know how your school differentiates itself from your competitors, what opportunities are available at your school and how they can be tailored to an individual child’s needs.

It’s worth considering the following topics and how you showcase or explain these as part of your Open Day/Tour:

  • School values
  • Pedagogy and examples of school work
  • Explicit improvement agenda, and ways you are looking to achieve your goals (reading/maths)
  • Policies on Assessment, gender (for co-ed), devices, mobile phones and bullying – and how your school deals with these issues
  • Views on differentiation, extension and what this looks like in the classroom
  • Extra-curricular programs – particularly cultural enrichment
  • Social justice/Service programs
  • Ways the school supports inclusion
  • What is the school’s “culture”? Past and present students illustrating this
  • Health and wellbeing, the outdoors and philosophy/ethics
  • Indigenous culture and heritage
  • Transport to and from your school
  • School achievements
  • School’s future plans
  • Mentoring and tutoring

Ultimately parents don’t want a sales pitch.

“I want to know how the school operates, breadth of curriculum, support programs, general expectations etc., so I can see if it fits with my child’s needs.”

“I’d be looking for a gut feeling that the school is a happy place that understands that academic and sport pursuits are not the only way to measure success…and that the students don’t seem over-burdened or stressed.”

An Open Day also has to be interactive and fun. How you get future students and families involved is part of making them feel special about your school. Think about activities like making liquid nitrogen ice cream, changing colour of liquids, looking through microscopes, flight simulation games (even dressing up in the uniform and having a photo in a photo booth) and learning to play a simple tune on a bongo drum.

In conclusion, we think it is worthwhile revisiting your Open Day/Tours strategy with the above insights in mind. Bear in mind having at least two events annually – one during school hours and one out of school hours. Think about the structure of your tours, who is conducting them and the length of your ‘open house’. Lastly, look to the content that parents want to know about when promoting your Open Day and think about HOW you address your differentiation and key messages.

For further strategic and school specific advice, get in touch with us here at  Look Education today.