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Elaine Stallard

Parental guidance

International schools must put parents at the centre of their marketing strategies, says Elaine Stallard

Posted by Hannah Oakman | May 11, 2016 | International

There are hundreds of international schools opening up across the world each year and the market shows no signs of slowing down. Successful British schools in particular are going global to meet the surging demand for an education in English within international schools in countries such as China, Singapore and Dubai.

Recent figures from the International School Consultancy (ISC) revealed that there are more than 8,000 English-medium international schools across the world, teaching more than four million students. It predicts that in 10 years, there will be a further 7,000 schools with more than eight million pupils enrolled.

China is leading the charge, with 530 English-medium international schools across the country catering to around 326,000 students. Between 2010 and 2014, international curriculum schools in Shanghai increased by almost 40 percent.

This rapid growth has made competition fierce for international schools hoping to attract prospective parents. Schools now have to work harder to ensure they’re drawing expat parents and their children away from rival schools. 

Schools must market themselves effectively and ensure they’re putting parents at the forefront of their strategies. In doing this, they have an increased chance of attracting the right kind of students for their school.

Make your school visible at the research stage

The internet is the search tool of choice for parents seeking an international school. Schools must make themselves available to parents at the initial research stage, so information about them must be easy to find online. The school’s website will need to appear on the first page of Google search results and contain the information that prospective expat parents need. An effective website may answer a parent’s doubts and concerns.

Answer the questions a parent might have

International schools need to understand how families evaluate and select schools, beyond just brand identity and reputation. Parents want to know how the curriculum differs from that offered back home, how international education will affect the chances of progression to top universities and what life is like for expats in that territory. Schools should facilitate this need for detail by providing in-depth information on their website.

FAQs should answer the specific questions parents need to know about: school life, location, exams, costs, teachers and curriculum, to name a few. Schools should look to answer these questions on the school’s site or at least link to sources where parents can access the information they need. Providing this support is vital for allaying the concerns of parents searching for a school overseas.

Adding blogs and media such as videos and images is another step schools can take to give parents more insight into what school life will be like for their child – giving extra peace of mind to those making the big decision.

Consider online listings as an effective way to spread awareness of your school 

In addition to the school’s own website, institutions can use online listings to attract prospective parents. These listings, such as Winter’s International School Finder, can provide regularly updated school information, are easy to access and provide a cost-effective route for parents searching for schools abroad. When choosing the listing to use, schools need to make sure that their chosen online directory will appear top of parental searches, is free to view and is going to offer the best platform from which to showcase your school.

By putting parents first and considering the factors that matter most to them, schools can make sure they attract the right students


Elaine Stallard is founder and CEO of Winter’s International School Finder W:

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