Revealing our true colours
Dulwich Prep Cranbrook is a large prep school in Kent, for children aged 3-13 years. Current parents, staff and pupils described Dulwich as a warm, friendly, nurturing community where children of all abilities and talents flourished. External audiences however saw Dulwich as lacking in personality, and a school where only the most academic and sporty children thrived.
Research conducted by a third party identified a reputation issue. We delved deeper, to understand the Headmaster’s vision, the genuine strengths of the school, and how children benefited from a Dulwich education. We conducted in-depth interviews with staff, ran focus groups with parents and undertook a communications audit.
What became clear was the school’s strengths were being misinterpreted because the benefits weren’t explicit enough. There was no over-arching narrative that connected all the strengths into a compelling and distinctive proposition.
Competitor analysis identified obvious, non-negotiable differences between Dulwich and other local independent schools, that needed to be made virtues, rather than ignored for fear of exposing imagined weaknesses – such as the size of the school and the purpose-built, modern buildings.
Building on the key insight – Dulwich’s immaculately presented modern buildings were counter-intuitive to the Harry-Potter-Hogwarts-loving generation; and the Headmaster’s ambition for every child to believe in themselves – we built a compelling narrative around ‘from the inside out’.
Spending time getting to know parents and staff meant we were able to encourage them to imagine how the school could be even better.
With their wish list and ambitions for the school in mind, we identified six new values that would help the school evolve in line with the school’s newly defined purpose.
We created a tool for the senior management team that helped them embed the values. It required evidence of each value in action and made sure the benefit to the children was explicit.
Dulwich threw off its grey façade, revealing the vibrant community inside.
Personalities were brought to the afore, and the monogram, like a torch, shines a light on each child, revealing their individual and extraordinary potential.
We worked with the web agency to ensure key messages were front and centre, and evidence of the warm, vibrant community was plentiful.
We brought in a copywriter to help establish the tone of voice.
And worked closely with Rubric, ensuring all applications of the identity were spot on and in line with the brand strategy.
We supported the marketing manager on the internal launch and comprehensive roll-out of the identity: Q&A sessions with governors, parents and staff; writing briefs; evaluating executions; developing a brand vocabulary and writing large chunks of the website.
The whole school community is clearer and more confident about what makes Dulwich special and why.
The school’s purpose and values have stimulated a more innovative culture.
An exciting range of new initiatives have been introduced from coding club, girls’ cricket to new apps for parents and inspiring visiting speakers.
Dulwich’s academic and sporting achievements continue to impress but increasingly people recognise the school’s prowess in other areas.
One year after the launch, we ran focus groups with parents who were new to the school. All were clear on Dulwich’s strengths. All felt the school’s communications captured the warm, vibrant, and nurturing community, and were a true reflection of their experience so far.
The Headmaster’s focus on building children’s inner confidence has been recognised by Independent Schools of the Year 2020 awards in the Student Wellbeing Category. The judges were looking for schools where ‘the promotion of student well-being sits at the heart of its ethos and informs and underpins the life of the whole-school community.’
The school’s approach to Covid 19 is incredibly impressive. From the speed of the reaction to the crisis, the quality of the education they have provided online, the warmth and strength of community enhanced through use of social media, to the confident covid-19 secure re-opening of the school in the summer term. The values are there for all to see.