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The social revolution

St Matthew Academy in Lewisham works with parents and the community to promote its success and good work. Vice principal David Cregan explains how social media has become an integral part of the school’s public relations strategy


t Matthew Academy is a mixed Catholic school for three to 16-year-olds. It is one of the “old” style academies that was established in 2007 with the specialism of business and enterprise.

St Matthew works hard at promoting its specialism and key messages to not only the students but the staff, parents, governors and anyone else who is or will be linked to the academy in the future. Promoting an academy, or in fact any type of school, is similar to

promoting a brand or product in other industries; it involves communicating key messages to target audiences in the best possible way. Traditionally, we have communicated our success via means such as newsletters, open days, events and press releases. However, social media has changed the way we all communicate and is an increasingly important part of the PR and marketing mix. So, with the help of social media specialists, we quickly realised the advantages of communicating online too. Social media is a fast and, importantly, free way of communicating to a wide audience. Statistics show that a large percentage of UK adults now

“Social media can act as a valuable lifeline to parents, prospective parents, and other educators and experts outside of the classroom walls.”

have Twitter and/or Facebook accounts (nearly 30 million people in the UK use Facebook, and Twitter has reached 100 million global users), so why not use this as a way to communicate? Social media can act as a valuable lifeline to parents, prospective

parents, and other educators and experts outside of the classroom walls. As a school, we use this virtual space to share ideas, communicate our achievements and keep up-to-date on best practice. We can connect with other schools, companies, press and parents, find support, inspiration and make some new friends. In a school where lessons are long and lunchtimes are short, social media pages can also act as a virtual staffroom for teachers. The key to social media is that it is all about having a conversation. Schools should not directly market themselves, but talk to their


audiences, as well as listen. Although at fi rst setting up social media pages may take a bit of effort, the actual managing of Twitter and Facebook accounts does not consume much time or other resources – it is called micro blogging as a result.

Twitter Twitter requires mastering the art of expressing yourself in 140 characters. Tricky? Yes – but a good lesson in being concise. Use of hashtags is popular – and these are useful for following topics and conversations. You can start your own, for example #StMattAcad, and this means you can track what people are saying about you. Our Twitter page (@StMattAcad) has really taken off. We currently

have 283 followers, and have sent 511 tweets. I tweet things throughout the day – for example I might take a picture of a pupil’s work and of the display areas in school. I might also send messages to parents, such as: “The Academy Army Band – entertain at our Saturday open morning.

Next open morning Friday 30th.” Although we have one central account for both primary and secondary,

our main followers are currently primary parents. Other followers are business leaders who work with the school and suppliers who are keen to see their products in action. Teachers from other schools also follow us sharing ideas and celebrating success. They tend to re-tweet our tweets, which is great. The school chef also tweets the lunch menu each morning. For example:

“Today’s menu celebrates European language day. Italian cottage pie, vegetable frittata with couscous salad. Root vegetable gratin. Apple strudel with custard.” We are a fl agship school in terms of our relationship with the local

police and communicate with them regularly. We link with our local police superintendant who was one of the services fi rst offi cers to use social media. She re-tweets for us and we also put out safety messages to the community for her. We have also started to see other headteachers in the area tweet and we are starting to share good practice. All local councillors, local MPs and childcare organisations are followers of our Twitter account. Local sports clubs tweet that they have something on and we tweet it out, showing our support. In this way, St Matthew’s social media has become a central hub of information for

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