Thursday, 20 December 2007

New School - create a reputation - one unbelievable self inflicted event - wrong reputation!

In one school I led as Headteacher, the vital priority was to transform the reputation of the school, especially in the local community. This takes time and needs a constant and consistent high quality approach to all the messages leaving the school, ranging from paperwork down to the messages that staff, students and parents carry out with them by written communication, word of mouth and behaviour.

One event, handled wrongly, MAY have a major negative impact, but inevitably in a school full of teenagers, things do happen. It's how they are handled that is important.

Folkestone Academy, with one the best new school buildings in the UK, open for just one term (Motto: Providing Excellence for Pupils of all Abilities) has just had all its good PR work for the term, as it builds a new reputation, totally damaged by the unbelievable actions of at least one teacher who apparently tied a student up with electrical cable in a lesson and told him to "grovel" if he wished to be released. This witnessed by a group of other students gathered round laughing. The fact that any teacher would think they could do anything like this really does defy belief. It has tried to be explained as a "good humoured" incident - this just doesn't wash.

The problem is, that as the school closes for the Christmas vacation, this is the last public message coming out of the academy with massive unfortunate national press covereage. The fact that two teachers were immediately suspended is a strong positive response, but some of this incident has the potential to hang around in peoples memories for years. This is not helped by the mobile phone video playing on the internet also showing students using inappropriate language in the classroom.

What are parents just choosing a new school for their yong children in that area supposed to do? They are looking for the highest quality teaching and learning experiences for their children. Do they treat it as a "one off" unfortunate incident, or as a signal of concern about the academy? Parents and community have very long memories - this will need a major professional and concerted PR job by the whole academy community to: a) undo the damage and b) build the reputation of the school back the excellence it aspires to.

I feel very sorry for Principal John Patterson. Starting a new academy is demanding enough - having to deal with a member of staff who does something like this he needs like a hole in the head! As for the teacher - well I think he needs to look for a new job! How can he go back to that academy? The potential "stick" he could get from students, parents alike could further damage the reputation of the school even further and be the cause of other disciplinary issues.
BBC report of the event

Watch video footage of the incident here


Wangbu said...

The punishment was too much indeed. It could really break the school's reputation. I congratulate ahead the head teacher if he can handle this well and still push the school up to its previous reputaion in the public.

Anonymous said...

This is a good post - I had never thought about the long term effect on the school reputation but it does make sense - the teacher should be sacked. There would be hell to pay if it was my child. Not even sure if I would send my child to that school now.

Benrick said...

Who would be a Head with idiot staff like this. it's ridiculous that Heads should have to think about PR - the level of the education given should be enough. This teacher should be banned.