Bede’s is an independent, co-educational, day and boarding school in the South East of England. It has always been renowned locally for its refusal to be academically selective, and its belief in the importance of individuality.
The challenge was how to raise everyone’s expectations of what the children could achieve, without being a super-selective, academic hot-house.
The newly appointed Headmaster had devised an ambitious change programme that would raise academic standards whilst enhancing the school’s holistic approach to education. We were to create a brand that would support, drive and communicate that change.
Research and insight
Our evidence-based approach helped build the case for change.
Through a mixture of in-depth interviews, questionnaires and group discussions with key stakeholders we were able to identify true strengths, investigate the greatest opportunities and challenges, and to test the appeal of the Headmaster’s ambition for the school.
Competitor analysis identified gaps in the local market, and scrutiny of schools’ messaging would later inform the nuancing of Bede’s proposition.
Based on the insight that Bede’s reputation for championing individuality was very compelling but the sense that this meant ‘anything goes’ was not; we were able to gain buy-in to a new purpose, the programme for change and the need for a radical re-brand.
Fundamental to the success of the Head’s new vision was the raising of expectations. Staff and pupils needed to expect more of themselves and each other. Such a cultural shift required new values and a whole-school engagement programme.
Collaborating closely with the leadership team, we created workshops to inspire and change behaviour. We ran workshops with over 200 members of staff to embed the values and gain buy-in to new priorities.
The workshops generated a myriad of ideas on how to inspire excellence and exceed expectations every day, including teaching techniques, tools to track and measure progress, pupil responsibilities, and sharing best practice. We then coached work groups responsible for assessing, refining and implementing changes.
The school didn’t have the expertise or resource to run a re-branding programme, so we based ourselves in school for two days a week to plan and direct the creative development and implementation of the brand identity.
We managed pitch processes to find the right creative partners and worked with the successful agencies on behalf of the client team.
From Hat-trick Design as lead agency on the brand identity through to Still Life on the interiors of the boys boarding house, we ensured the brand strategy was front and centre.
The pupils became the focus of the visual identity. A very distinctive portrait style of photography was used (taken by Alistair Hood). We identified student heroes and told their stories to inspire others.
We championed the brand within Bede’s, worked closely with key staff to help drive and signal change, from creating new interior spaces, developing the BE language and rationalising signage through to launch communications, creation of brand management tools and embedding the values into job descriptions with the HR team’s external consultant.
We started work with Bede’s in 2010 and launched the new identity in 2012. By 2014 Bede’s reputation had shifted dramatically, from a school where ‘anything goes’ to a school where children achieve their full potential, whatever their talents.
The Bede’s branding raised the school’s profile and gave the Headmaster the platform he needed to signal a shift in expectations and standards at the school.
Within a year of the rebrand Bede’s is recognised as a school in ascendancy in a Department of Education report.
The brand was brought to life imaginatively everywhere. No opportunity to inspire and raise standards was missed, from: staff recruitment; redesigning the Head’s office; creation of pupil’s art gallery; through to minibus liveries.
“My child is on Einstein’s bus, what about yours?” “Marie Curie’s.” Overheard at Prep School.
The internal engagement programme helped drive the change and raised standards.
In the words of Tatler, “Dr Maloney has wrought miracles at Bede’s, raising the academic game from around 60 per cent A*-B at A-level to 78 per cent last year – its best-ever results.”
We worked closely with the new team members to embed the brand and develop best practice, before safely handing guardianship over to them. (And they have done a cracking job, over the last five years.)