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It’s clear that education had changed greatly since I was at school. In my day the girls did domestic science and the boys did technical stuff with wood and metal.

Also way back then, computers were more theoretical than anything else. My secondary had only two computers and I’m not even sure I ever saw them switched on.

The careers we were groomed for were in more traditional fields such as medicine, the armed forces, engineering and management.

When my son started primary school I was struck by a comment during a talk to parents -most likely about uniform or head lice. The head teacher said: “By the time these children leave education, a third of them will have jobs that don’t even exist now.”

She was talking about new technology and how out is transforming our world. And one of the most significant areas of this change must surely be the internet.

Searching things on the internet is now an everyday part of school life, for even the youngest children. And at vast expense education authorities have launched internet networks to allow youngsters to communicate in virtual forums.

There are even some schools that brag about the fact that each child has an ipad as a teaching tool.
So in keeping with an increasingly online life, most schools have websites. They are full of information for parents, pupils and members of the community. In fact, to discourage the use of the school photocopier, we are often referred to the site for essential information.

tutorhubWhy, then, are school websites rubbish? Ours is a shocker. It’s really hard to find anything – the navigation makes no sense. You are required to download sizeable pdf files. The font is hard to read, colours bland and the search facility non-existent.

I conducted an entirely unscientific survey and discovered that – apart from fee-paying schools – the standard is shocking. Almost all of them would stand as a case study in how not to do a website.
Surely within every modern education establishment there are the skills necessary to make a reasonable fist of a website. After all it’s not anywhere near as difficult as it used to be.

Pupils get involved in building art work, installing useful things at school and producing a school newspaper – all to an incredibly high standard. And these experiences help the children when it comes to getting a job.

For heaven’s sake, these kids were born clicking a mouse. Skills such as basic website building are now just as important as knowing how to write a business letter.

Plus, this parent in particular wouldn’t get cross every time she has occasion to visit the school site.

8 Comments

8 Responses to “School websites are rubbish: it’s time they set a better example”

  1. James Young (@welcomebrand)

    It’s unqualified duffers trying to make “a reasonable fist of a website” that is usually the problem. You get what you (don’t) pay for.

    School websites are generally rubbish because they’re an afterthought in the office and someone knocks it together without realising that crafting these things takes skill and experience.

    I’ve got a copy of Word, I’m off to now make a reasonable fist of journalism. I’ve got no background in it but it can’t be that hard.

    J.

    Dear schools with rubbish websites, please give me a shout. I’d be happy to help you make yours better.

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    • ellenarnison27

      Hi James
      Thanks for your comment. Fair point – expert websites are far and away the best as the fee-paying schools show, however, what I was trying to say was that schools ought to at least be aware of what makes a site good and what makes one utter rubbish.
      Proper journalists make the best journalists, but school newspapers are often surprisingly good.
      E

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  2. GrumbleDook

    A lovely idea, but there is a difference between being to technically build a website, being able to design one which is engaging for all audiences and then generating the content needed to regularly keep it up to date.

    Schools will use websites for different things. Some will use it as a marketing presence for potential parents. Some will use it as a hub for learning, whilst others keep that away from the website and focus learning around a VLE / Learning Platform. Some will use it as a news system to keep existing parents and families up to date with what is going on at the school, the learning which is taking place, the classwork / homework which is being produced by the pupils / students. Some will do all of the above, or at least bits of it.

    It is hard to say any one school has it right. If you look at the work of people like David Mitchell (@deputymitchell) around blogging you will see that one aspect is wonderful, the regular content. If you look at the sites designed by companies such as E4Education, or even the free Joomla Templates around … including those adapted and promoted by the folk at EduGeek.net … you will see the design aspect can be spot on … but it doesn’t always make for a good site.

    Schools need to work the website into their education strategy, their marketing plan, their communication plan … you know … the stuff that businesses also do.

    They have to have a reason for it … not just have one because everyone else does.

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    • ellenarnison27

      Grumbledook,
      Thanks for your comment.
      I’m delighted to hear that some schools are excellent online – I’m going to have a look at Mr Mitchell’s blog now.
      And you have a fair point, school websites have to serve many functions. However, in our area there seems to be pressure on schools to switch their communications with parents to the internet as a cost saving exercise, meaning we parents need to find our way round the site just to know when the next non-uniform day is.
      And, actually, my son’s school’s site is so awful it wouldn’t do any of the things you suggest very well.

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  3. Nikkiikii

    My OH isn’t even allowed to turn the volume up on his PC at school without calling for an administrator to come onsite and input a password. The restrictions that teachers work under makes it all but impossible for them to make use of the tools that pupils have access to in their pockets. Crikey even the Open University site is blocked because (wait for it) it’s EDUCATIONAL.

    As for school website – Perth High’s is a good ‘un. Not my OH’s school incidentally. He did have a website up and running for his and it was alright but he was single handedly managing the content and it just wasn’t do-able :/ Before it was taken down the only content being added was a PDF of the newsletter – which was printed anyway.

    Mike Russell recently held an ICT in Education Summit and objective 4 discussed was Parental Engagement… http://www.engageforeducation.org/2011/09/technologies-for-learning-unpacking-the-objectives-parental-engagement/ – honestly… diaries…. online…. blah blah blah.

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  4. ellenarnison27

    Nikkiikii, I didn’t realise that teachers worked under such restrictions – although I’m not surprised.

    Perth High School http://www.perthhigh.co.uk/pages.php?category=2&PHPSESSID=bca29202a1c652e8d8529dcc3ac69aed take a bow, your website is excellent.

    In some regards politicians discussing engagement for parents and using new technology in the same paragraph is a good thing, but you just know the whole common sense thing will vanish under the weight of discussion.

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  5. Him Up North

    I think lack of resources (both financial and knowledge) leaves schools with little option but make the best of a bad job. Some local authorities offer platforms which schools can sign up to but they’re not the most inspiring. As with anything to do with education, the bottom line dictates.

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  6. ellenarnison27

    Him Up North, fair point but perhaps it’s time for a shift in priorities to match the changing world.

    Reply (0) (0)

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