Schools in crisis

Rebuilding Trust on a Global Stage

Our work concerned cases of child abuse that took place in the 1970s and 80s at a high profile school. We helped the school management acknowledge the failings of the past, reassure worried parents and explain the rigorous safeguarding processes that exist today. We guided the school through a global media storm and helped communicate with staff and pupils. No pupil was withdrawn from the school and applications for the subsequent year reached record levels.

Brief
Linstock was brought in to protect the reputation of the school at a time of global media interest.

Activity
The genuine regret and contrition of school management needed to be conveyed to concerned parents. Only by opening the book on everything that had happened at the school and demonstrating a new way forward could we hope to draw a line under the events of the past and stop the steady drip of negative stories. We helped to demonstrate how the school had put its house in order and made sure those closest to the events at the school heard first-hand of any developments in the story. We focused on what parents would most need to hear; that the school recognised the mistakes of the past, accepted its share of the blame and had put new safeguarding processes in place.

In practice, we drafted a communications strategy, media protocol, key messages and Q&A and media trained spokespeople. We staged a press conference for 30 members of the press and five camera crews, logged and managed 87 media enquiries and managed six TV interviews. We provided real time traditional and online media monitoring, 24/7 advice on blogs, tweets, and online comment, and addressed the issues raised through the school website and direct communication with parents. We managed two presentations to parents and advised on communication with pupils.

Results
The school’s messages of remorse and reassurance were reflected in 78% of media stories that extended beyond news-in-brief. 240 parents attended an open meeting to discuss the issues.
The school featured in 279 press, online and broadcast articles during the course of the crisis; seventy of these were in UK national media including the BBC, Channel 4 News, ITN, Sky News, the Times, Daily Telegraph, Daily Mail and the Guardian. Our press conference drew to a close the steady drip feed of damaging media. No pupils were withdrawn from the school and a record breaking number signed up for the subsequent year.

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