A school’s eye view

Garry Stout (Deputy Headteacher at Dene Community School) shares the reasons behind his decision to work with Words&Pictures on their school magazine and the steps to developing an effective publication.

Schools achieve a great deal on a daily basis.  At Dene Community School we have made sure our message is “out there” with our key audiences i.e. Year 5s and 6s, current students as well as the wider community – including sports and medical centres –  who may be oblivious to the positive flow of stories that young people and staff bring to their school.  We have, as part of our media portfolio, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube in addition to an evolving web site. Yet we still felt something was missing.

It is important to have a clear vision about what you want to celebrate and achieve.  There are many talented people working in schools.  However, with the best will in the world they do not have the time and training of those who carry out design briefs for a living.  The ability to have a solid reminder of our achievements drove us to get in contact with Words&Pictures.  We had the need, they had the expertise and so “Twenty Twenty” magazine was born.  It is very much a partnership that has developed over time and I think the benefits have been mutual.

What, then, have been the steps in developing our magazine?   Try to emphasise the “newness” of your situation and how things have changed for the better.  In 2012 we were fortunate to move into our new building.  This has provided the basis for a rebranding of Dene and how we are perceived not just in Peterlee but also across the county of Durham.

It seems an obvious point to make but plan and prepare well for each meeting.  It will help if you already have a hook or an angle to discuss with the design team.  Once that is established, the stories will have flow and balance.  For example, our first edition centred on the number of “firsts” Dene has achieved recently.  This involved celebrating our best-ever set of GCSE results, students competing in national and international tournaments as well as further developments in our building work.  Subsequent editions have highlighted the “Good” achieved in the Ofsted 2014 report and the summer term’s whole-school approach to CEIAG (Careers Education Information and Guidance).

The W&P team will give you lots of advice so that your magazine works for you in the way you want it to.

At Dene we let the pictures dominate the stories.  Visuals will always give you a greater impact.  The text should be simple, preferably with a quote from the main subject and be easily digestible to an audience that could span from eight to eighty.

Put the students and the staff (with a big emphasis on support staff) at the heart of your magazine.  If they appear in it, make sure they receive a free copy.  Post it home to the parents/carers of the students.

You are the editor but you are part of a team.  Celebrate their success by having large and small framed copies of the front cover around the school.

Garry Stout (g.stout@dene.durham.sch.uk)

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