SCHOOLS are hiring film-makers so parents can take a virtual peek inside, when they would usually be attending open evenings.

Restricted access due to the coronavirus pandemic means schools are unable to welcome parents and carers as they normally would during a typical autumn admissions season.

To get around the problem, schools have paid for films that let parents ‘meet’ teachers and get a feel for the place where their child could be spending the next five or seven years.

Meanwhile, a big drop in the county’s birth rate further complicates matters with schools struggling to fill their classes.

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The number of children born in Oxfordshire has fallen by ten per cent over the course of the last decade, with Oxford and West Oxfordshire areas that are particularly badly affected.

The falling birth rate in and around Witney has recently led Madley Brook Primary School to reduce the number of pupils it accepts every year from 45 to 30.

Headteacher Katherine Spencer said: “Things have changed in education, in particular around West Oxfordshire.

“It’s no longer enough to just be really good, you have to make sure that people know about it – and making a video was our way of doing that.

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“It is even more vital this year that we are innovative and focused on getting our story out there.

“The pandemic means parents don’t get that opportunity to come in and meet the people who are going to nurture and develop their child – and they don’t get the chance to see the place where all that is going to happen.”

Nora Ward, the new headteacher at The Oxford Academy, was brought in after the school was rate inadequate by Ofsted last year.

She said: “Anyone coming into the school would see that this is a calm place where children are allowed to learn, but people can’t come in – and so the story that people know about the school is a year old.

Oxford Mail:

“Shooting a video allows prospective parents to hear the story of the school as it is now. It allows them to see my great staff talking, to see their passion and to have faith in them.”

Richard Tilley, of Comms For Schools, is a marketing specialist in the education sector, and has produced a dozen promotional films for county schools this autumn.

He said: “Money is tight in education, and finding the cash to shoot a video is not easy, but more and more schools are realising that marketing is something they just have to do.

“Schools are funded on a per-pupil basis – almost £4,000 for primaries and around £5,000 for secondaries.

“They weren’t getting enough money even when they were full – and now many aren’t going to be getting enough pupils. It’s really hitting budgets.”