September 12, 2023

Safeguarding trust in education

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Safeguarding trust in education


Zoë Scorer, Deputy Managing Director:
  • How a crisis can impact a school or college
  • Five reasons why reputation management is vital in education 
  • Don’t wait for the unexpected to strike

Protecting the reputation of a school, college or university is fundamental to its sustained success; it defines the trust parents and students place in it. But what happens when unforeseen situations, such as the recent revelation about the presence of Reinforced Autoclaved Aerated Concrete (RAAC) in UK educational institutions, happen?  

News travels at lightning speed thanks to social media and messaging apps. An unexpected issue, whether real or perceived, can rapidly spiral into a full-blown crisis, putting the reputation and credibility of an education provider at risk. They can fall prey to public scrutiny and backlash, whether at fault or not. The government’s announcement has led to widespread alarm, media attention, parent outrage and legal complications; the RAAC situation underlines the necessity for being prepared for the unexpected.

There is an undeniable need for schools to have robust reputation management and crisis communications plans in place in the inevitable event of needing them. Reputational threats are unpredictable, but you must be prepared.  


Why reputation management is vital in education

  • Protecting students and stakeholders: The safety and well-being of students, staff, and the community must be the top priority in any educational crisis. A comprehensive plan ensures that immediate measures are taken to address concerns, communicate factually and effectively, and provide necessary support.
  • Swift and informed response: In the initial hours of a crisis, having a plan in place is invaluable. It enables leaders to respond promptly, share accurate information with stakeholders, and maintain control over the narrative, reducing panic and confusion. Acting quickly also ensures that schools can focus on the important job of education without being unduly distracted by the demands of the media.
  • Preserving trust in education: Parents entrust schools and teachers with their child’s learning and development, as well as their safety; trust is the foundation upon which educational institutions are built. With a well-structured crisis communications plan, education providers can demonstrate transparency, accountability, and a commitment to rectify the situation, helping to preserve trust amidst adversity.
  • Compliance and accountability: Crises in education environments, like the presence of hazardous materials, often come with legal and regulatory responsibilities. A comprehensive plan helps schools, colleges and universities navigate these complex issues while adhering to the law and protecting their reputation.
  • Ensuring long-term resilience: Beyond immediate crisis management, a reputation management plan should encompass strategies for long-term recovery. How will an institution rebuild trust over time? What steps will be taken to prevent future occurrences? These questions are pivotal for long-term resilience.

While the RAAC incident remains on-going, the importance of a reputation management and crisis communications plan in the education sector is undeniably real. In an unpredictable world, every education provider is susceptible to reputational threats. A well-prepared plan safeguards, not only for weathering the storm but for emerging stronger and more resilient.