C.H. and Public Relations

Anything that doesn't fit anywhere else, but that's still CH related.

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Richard Ruck
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C.H. and Public Relations

Post by Richard Ruck » Fri Mar 11, 2005 5:58 pm

Having considered some points raised in other threads, I think it might be interesting to hear a few opinions on how people think C.H. is doing on the P.R. front, both on a local and national level.

Firstly, I could offer my wife's observations from her place of work (in Horsham).

Despite the fact that the school has now been here for over a century, the general opinion in her (fairly representative) workplace seems to be that it's a place for 'posh' kids. Most people do not seem to have any idea about how the place works, or about its charitable status. Is this a result bad / non-existent P.R.? Perhaps it's a generational thing - older residents do seem to know a bit more.

Also, the down-side to pupils no longer being 'visible' to Horsham residents may well be a feeling that the school has withdrawn, to some extent, from the community. For example, I used to see C.H. pupils visiting a day-care centre for the elderly which is near my home. I'm sure it's highly likely that pupils continue to help out there, but who is to know (apart from the old folks themselves)?

Local press coverage has in the last few years been focused on the land for housing arguments, during which C.H. has not always come across in a good light. This is balanced to some extent by the odd concert / theatre review, pictures of the band in the Carfax, etc.

I have read comments elsewhere about staff being evicted, and Horsham District Council's relationship with C.H. not being all that it might be.

Now, I'm sure that the school has done and continues to do a lot of work in order to engage with the local community, but it seems that there is still a long way to go.

Can anyone enlighten us as to things which are happening which might not be obvious to the outside world?

For example, are CH's facilities (sporting and otherwise) made available to other less-advantaged establishments, as I understand is the case at numerous other public schools?

What can be the realistic aims of the school's P.R., both locally and nationally? Is something not working as well as it could be, or do expectations have to be realistically low?
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Re: C.H. and Public Relations

Post by Mrs C. » Fri Mar 11, 2005 6:21 pm

Also, the down-side to pupils no longer being 'visible' to Horsham residents may well be a feeling that the school has withdrawn, to some extent, from the community. For example, I used to see C.H. pupils visiting a day-care centre for the elderly which is near my home. I'm sure it's highly likely that pupils continue to help out there, but who is to know (apart from the old folks themselves)?
Far from withdrawing from the community , the school`s Community Action group goes from strength to strength. You can find details about it on the school`s official website (http://www.christs-hospital.org.uk). Many local residential homes and primary school are visited regularly by pupils, and local primary school pupils come along to an After School Club run by CH pupils - this now even extends downwards to KS 1 pupils (infants)

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Post by Ian Stannard » Fri Mar 11, 2005 7:09 pm

Mrs C is right about community action. Many local schools benefit from our students weekly support, as do the charity shops, old people's homes and hospices. This magnificent programme is one of the most successful school based project in the UK.

The loss of the uniform in Horsham has removed us from the local scene. I support the move to non uniform visits but this is an inevitable result.

The factor that is most significant is that we are not a 'town' school. Our pupils do not just 'pop' into Horsham like they would if you could walk in and back during break.

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Post by Great Plum » Sat Mar 12, 2005 9:54 am

Re the Sports Centre and facilities - the school does have its commercial arm CHE/ Quadrant/ Bluecoat Sports/ whatever they are called today...

Obviously they are trying to make money out of the school...

There are a number of times when the school is open in the holidays for childrens camps etc - I feel it could do more for the local community - however the Community Service Group does do a lot of work in the wider community!
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Re: C.H. and Public Relations

Post by eloisec » Mon Mar 14, 2005 9:41 am

Richard Ruck wrote:I have read comments elsewhere about staff being evicted, and Horsham District Council's relationship with C.H. not being all that it might be.
I guess that's coming from me. However I would like to make clear I'm not saying HDC is having a bad time with CH! Just obviously with some policies it is not in agreement. Don't want to get people into trouble!

Got to be careful :roll:
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Post by Deb GP » Mon Mar 14, 2005 11:21 am

Great Plum wrote:Re the Sports Centre and facilities - the school does have its commercial arm CHE/ Quadrant/ Bluecoat Sports/ whatever they are called today...

Obviously they are trying to make money out of the school...
<not wanting to be dragged into anything> Or rather - they are trying to make money for the school using the school's facilities.

As part of maintaining the school's image (when I worked there) local schools (e.g. Itchingfield, Horsham Primary Schools Music Festival) had a pretty much guaranteed/priority slot for making use of the facilities whether for swimming lessons or use of one of the halls for a concert. In my time working there (a few years ago), those groups were charged pretty much cost rate. Although, having said that, when rates were initially agreed (c. 10-15 years ago) the "cost" rate was calculated very crudely and didn't meet the actual costs that the school incurred - the period of adjustment wasn't easy nor popular, but very necessary. Obviously it would be lovely to share everything at the school on a broad basis - but the school is there primarily for it's pupils and educating them is expensive. Maintaining the balance of creating sustainable income and PR et c is very difficult.

Obviously - I'm only speaking from what I picked up when I was there and doesn't necessarily represent current policy. Indeed, I could be mistaken about what I think I know about what was happening whilst I was there - being only a very small cog in a much larger wheel.

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Post by Great Plum » Mon Mar 14, 2005 11:33 am

Deb GP wrote:
Great Plum wrote:Re the Sports Centre and facilities - the school does have its commercial arm CHE/ Quadrant/ Bluecoat Sports/ whatever they are called today...

Obviously they are trying to make money out of the school...
<not wanting to be dragged into anything> Or rather - they are trying to make money for the school using the school's facilities.

***snip****

<ducks to avoid inevitable barrage>
Sorry I didn't make it clear but that's what I meant - there is no point in leaving the school empty over the holidays is there? Althuoght we shouldn't fill it up with PGL! LOL
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Post by Deb GP » Mon Mar 14, 2005 11:47 am

Dude - re PGL - inshort, the accommodation facilities at CH were so poor, no one else was willing to pay!

A lot of the early trouble with them was mainly down to communication and also because we didn't have "our" people on site at all times keeping an eye on them. In the late nineties, they were pretty much given the keys to the school and told to help themselves (OK - so I'm exaggerating slightly - but that's the long and short of it!). Additionaly when I started in CHE, no-one worked beyond 5pm, weekends nor supervised the holiday activities groups that came to site - thankfully (for the sake of the school - not for my social life), that stopped in my first summer, keys were retained by the school and standards of behaviour were agreed (in conjunction with the school). Things (believe it or not) gradually came under control, complaints reduced considerably and profits increased. As the residences at the school improved, PGL were priced out - plus they didn't like sharing with other groups.

The whole process of reform was jolly difficult. I don't know how things have progressed since - there was still a lot to be learnt and to be done when I left. I didn't have the confidence in the new manager to develop realtionships with the school in order for things to progress (plus I was fed up earning diddly squit, getting abuse from staff, not having a life and there were no career prospects - but hey, I fulfilled the charge!). I'm sure others will paint a different picture. After all - give a dog a bad name......
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Post by Great Plum » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:20 pm

Afaik, it's a lot better now Debbie! :)

How much money does CHE make?
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Post by Deb GP » Mon Mar 14, 2005 12:41 pm

Don't know about now - certainly not the current turnover - and I only got to see the figures for the section I was in. I'd hate to misquote a figure (being an accountant and all). But the last budget I produced for holiday lettings looked very healthy and was quite conservative. The profit would have certainly covered the cost of a good number of pupils. Don't know if they made it or not. They should have done.

Ian Stannard might have a better idea - I think (don't actually know for sure) he was some kind of liaison type person in my last year. If it wasn't him, whoever it was, they were quite switched on and actually had a business head and an understanding for commerical activity whilst representing the schools concerns very effectively.
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Post by J.R. » Mon Mar 14, 2005 4:12 pm

I have been trying to follow the general train of thought on this thread.

I noticed on my last visit to the school, how much the general ethos has changed.

In my day it was a good Public school for mainly deprived children with an above average level of intelligence.

Last year, I gained the distinct impression that The School is run purely, as a 'Business', which I suppose in the current political background is nothing unusual.

As regards to HDC, and as a former employee of M.V.D.C. (and a life card carrying member of UNISON), perhaps this is time for me to bite my tongue.

OUCH !! :shock:

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Post by Deb GP » Mon Mar 14, 2005 4:19 pm

I don't think that the ethos has changed especially concerning the admission of pupils and their schooling - but certainly, it is more business like in terms of long term planning, funding, accountability et c. It's the way all charitable concerns seem to be going.

As far as I understand it, the business arms of the Foundation (e.g. for letting the premises and managing the sports centre) are necessary to detatch liabilities from the charity and to be tax efficient.
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Post by BTaylor » Wed Mar 16, 2005 3:51 pm

I would agree that the school is perceived as particularly poor at managing its own reputation (and thus generating positive PR).

I'm sure that there are plenty of projects which are admirable and give much back to both the local community, and initiatives which have a broader reaching national appeal.

The problem, and what I suspect Richard was getting at, is that no-one knows about them, outside the directly affected groups. It's all very well doing these things, but part of that activity should be to give interested parties the ability to find out exactly what is happening. However, even that's a difficult balance to strike. Talk about the volunteer work undertaken too much and it sounds like bragging, don't let enough people know and you're accused of withdrawing and becoming insular. It's a problem all businesses face.

CH is also one of the 32 'real' public schools. This gives it a position of leadership and with that responsibility. Should it be leading a national agenda, commenting on issues that affect it directly to those that will listen? possibly. Is keeping its head below the parapet a safer option? possibly too. A difficult one to call.

It's never easy, but PR is an incredibly cost-effective (and probably essential) function, which if CH wishes to further its business credentials, would do well to make more of, certainly within the local community.
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Post by Great Plum » Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:43 pm

A 'real' public school - what consititutes.this?
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Post by BTaylor » Wed Mar 16, 2005 4:51 pm

A public school is one that is a member of the Headmasters conference (or so I'm told). the rest I believe are termed as independent.

I'll stand to be corrected though.
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