Showcasing your guidance programme can sometimes be a challenge: as a counsellor, your workload is heavy and your duties varied - particularly if you’re teaching, too. And not only is there variety in your tasks, but also in the people you work with and report to.
The fact is, you’ll probably have to prove the value of your guidance programme to school leadership, students and parents, and you’ll probably have to do it all the time.
But while reports to school leaders are likely scheduled in your working calendar, and interactions with students are clearly built into your role, knowing how and when to showcase your programme to parents can be tricky.
In order to do this effectively, you’ll probably have to gather and interpret quite a bit of data - something that makes many of us baulk.
But don’t worry! Forearmed with knowledge and the right tools, it doesn’t need to be scary at all. In this article, we’ll think about why it’s so important to quantify the value of your programme, what data to track and how to share it with parents.
Create the most powerful guidance programme with these comprehensive guides! They explore all kinds of vital topics, including showcasing your guidance programme to parents and other stakeholders.
Some counsellors might think that the value of their programme speaks for itself. What really counts is the outcomes students achieve, right? They get into the universities of their dreams, and go off into their bright futures.
But actually, being able to understand and demonstrate the impact of your work is pivotal for lots of reasons!
Most schools are acutely aware that application outcomes are one of the most decisive factors as parents scope out schools for their children. If they know that you have a thoughtful and effective plan, parents will be much more likely to send their children to your school.
In short, a robust guidance department like yours is a huge selling point, and if your school isn’t already putting you front and centre you should make sure it does!
Plus, having parents on board - particularly those who are vocal about how important the university application process is to them - helps ensure your department is given the resources, time, staff and budget it needs for optimal results.
And parents can incentivise not only school leadership, but their children. If children see how much faith and excitement you instil in their parents, they too will have more confidence in your strategy and likely participate more enthusiastically in your plans. Crucially, parents can act as your allies in keeping students on track outside of school time!
Now that you’re sold on the importance of capturing the value of your work for parents, it’s time to take some action.
Before you start crunching any numbers, the first step is to set goals. Otherwise, how can you know whether you’re hitting them?
Of course, the goals you track to showcase your guidance programme to parents might be slightly different to the ones you’d want to report to school leadership, so think carefully about what parents’ priorities are likely to be. We’ll get into some ideas of things to track later, but getting into parents’ mindsets as you map out goals is crucial. You could even survey current parents to see where their priorities lie!
But one thing that all counsellors share is that they have a long-term and multifaceted role, and that can make creating meaningful and measurable goals that really reflect what they do difficult. That’s why it’s important to have a proper framework in place - we like SMART goals.
If you’re not familiar with them, SMART is an acronym for:
To ensure your goal is specific, you might want to stick to the 5 Ws: what, why, when, who and which.
A measurable goal has a defined endpoint: you’ll know for sure when you’ve achieved it!
To be achievable, it simply needs to be realistic and feasible (within the parameters you’ve set for yourself).
Relevance means it relates to your broader purposes (i.e. getting students into their chosen degree programmes), is worthwhile, and - crucially - is within your job role.
And finally, timebound means you have a specified deadline in place.
With clear goals that meet these criteria, you’ll be able to meaningfully assess how well your strategy is working and show it off to parents.
Now the goal-setting is done, it’s time to sort out some practicalities. The first thing you’ll want to decide is simply how you’re going to find and record the data you need.
Of course, you have lots of options here ranging from very manual to totally automated. Some of the most practical and accessible are:
None of these options should eat into your budget much - in fact, the only one that isn’t 100% free is the physical folders option, for which you’ll at the very least need paper, ink and possibly a printer or filing cabinets!
Note: Of course, if your school doesn’t currently have Google accounts or another similar cloud-based storage solution, then that would require an investment too.
Regardless of the cost (or rather, lack thereof), these solutions are not entirely equal. Using an option like Google documents or Google sheets is great because it’s available from wherever you might be, provided you have access to the internet. That saves you having to carry around heavy folders or stay late in the office - a huge bonus!
Still, Google documents and downloadable templates alike require you to find and input the data manually.
BridgeU, on the other hand, does a lot of that heavy-lifting for you. It even creates simple and informative visual representations of your data, so you don’t need to spend time creating graphs and charts to showcase your strategy’s impact when it comes to creating presentations or reports for parents! They’re ready and waiting to go whenever you need them, wherever you are.
Often, counsellors find it more effective to start with results and then backtrack to techniques. How you structure your presentations and conversations is up to you, and will probably depend on lots of factors.
But for the purpose of this article, we’ll begin by thinking about the actions you’re taking throughout the year that you should definitely be setting goals for and keeping track of. These are all things that parents want to hear about!
As well as what you’re doing, you’ll obviously need to show what effects it’s having! You’ll probably know just how results-driven students tend to be, often seeing schoolwork through the lens of ‘what’s in it for me?’.
Parents, too, are often wondering what’s in it for their children! While they’ll doubtless be interested in how you’re making your impact, they’ll definitely want to know about the end results.
Note: Remember that whatever you track, you need to try and be as consistent as possible in how you track and record your data. That way you can create accurate comparisons and reports from different angles and on different aspects of your strategy to be able to meet different parents’ expectations and answer all their questions.
Of course, the factors you choose to analyse will depend on the specific goals you set to impress parents, but in our experience, these are some of the areas that counsellors have found most valuable when showcasing their guidance programme to parents.
If you’re just starting out or you want to create quite simple, easy-to-understand presentations for parents, these are some criteria that you’ll want to look into:
Once you’ve got to grips with data analysis for proving the value of your guidance programme, you’ll probably be hungry for more - and parents might be too.
To find out more about what works in your school and why, and be able to offer fuller reports and plans to parents, you could investigate some other areas popular amongst BridgeU counsellors:
You might be thinking that it’s all very well and good you knowing how valuable your work is (as if you had any doubt!), but when will you get to share it with parents?
Some of this will come down to you creating your own opportunities and platforms, but there are also likely chances built into the school calendar already.
Firstly, you should be showcasing your guidance programme (and its outcomes!) on the school’s website, on brochures and any other marketing materials/channels the school uses.
You could even create a dedicated blog on the website in which you can discuss everything from global admissions trends to university research projects your students are engaged in. It’s a great way to connect with parents, get them involved in the process and make them see that you really know your stuff and deliver results! Plus, you can also show that you’re protecting students’ wellbeing as well as setting them on the most prosperous path.
A second way to broadcast the value of your programme is in informational evenings and open days. It’s likely that there are already some scheduled in your school’s calendar, so just make sure your department has a good spot and time slot where you can present on your strategy and results, and answer any questions.
Thinking on an even bigger scale, you might consider publicising your school’s successes in local newspapers! If results day rolls around and your school is one of the top performing in the area, that’s definitely newsworthy. If students are breaking school records, getting into world-leading universities, or maybe even have personal success stories, there will likely be local publications interested in sharing the good news.
As well as participating in recruitment-style events like open days, you might also want to create dedicated informational events, purely for your guidance department. Again, remember that university and careers outcomes are often high on parents’ priorities, so they’ll likely be very keen to hear from you!
Likewise, make sure you’re available at other events current parents will attend, like parents’ evenings or wider informational evenings.
There are optimal points in students’ academic careers for doing this. The year before they decide on their final years’ subjects is often a good opportunity to speak with parents, so that they can help their students make decisions informed by their long-term goals. Naturally, the start of their penultimate and final years are also critical moments, as they’re usually critical in university research and application preparation.
Top tip: To maximise your reach, hold some of these events virtually and make the recording available so that it’s easier for parents to attend/watch back (especially those who have to work, younger children and so on).
You should also consider more intimate settings, like organising meetings or phone calls with parents to discuss their child’s progress more specifically, and your plans for helping them meet their goals. That also means they know exactly where their children are up to in the application process and what they need to do that month, meaning they can keep encouraging them to stay on top of upcoming deadlines and required documents.
And remember that whatever format you’re showcasing your guidance programme in, you need to make plenty of time available for questions. Parents often have a lot of concerns, curiosity and even anxieties about their children’s futures, and being able to pose these directly to you will really help set their minds at ease!
Hopefully this article has given you plenty of ideas for proving your programme’s value and impact to parents - but there’s much more you can learn and do!
If you want to find out how to showcase your guidance programme to other stakeholders (think school leadership and students) and learn more in-depth about the power of data to transform your strategy and prove its effectiveness, check out our New Counsellor’s Survival Guides.
They’re brimming with information on everything from designing a programme perfect for your school, to implementing it as effectively as possible and ultimately reporting on its (doubtless impressive) outcomes.
Download your free copies today to explore all the ways you can make your role as powerful and pleasant as possible.
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