Big business practices work in schools

McClelland College has transformed itself with corporate style approaches.
Dec 8, 2021
Big business, meet low SES school.

McClelland College’s, in Frankston Vic, Principal Amadeo Ferra came to wonder how he could build capacity and whether the school could benefit from the same processes that businesses use; data, marketing, on-going professional development. The question was how to do it.

Experian is a very large, public-listed credit reporting company, along with that they use their analytical expertise to deliver insight into marketing programs and use data to improve businesses operations.

After connecting through a program to link schools in low SES areas and big business, the now seven-year-old relationship has benefitted both McClelland College and the corporation.

“There is a lot that can be gained from a school engaging deeply with a large business and speaking to staff from Experian, they too benefit greatly. I think we are indicative of other schools and corporations but the challenge is how to find one another. I’m a big believer in creating opportunities for my school community and continue to reach out to organisations where I see a need so sometimes you just need to make that first call or email,” Ferra says.

The relationship was formed in early 2014. Initially, it was three-year commitment overseen by a non-for profit organisation (Schools Connect) who were then taken over by ABCN.

“The relationship has morphed into a variety of activities and programs to meet changing needs. 

"A lot of the flexibility around our relationship and activities has come about as we quickly built trust between key staff such as members of the Leadership Team at the College and senior staff at Experian.

“Governance was a real area of weakness back then and as a result an experienced staff member from Experian, Vic Hodge, volunteered to join our School Council. He has been a community co-opted member for seven years now and continues to add real value and a different perspective to our meetings.”

Ferran says the capacity building work with staff – and particularly leaders – is an area that the school has greatly benefited from, it has helped build capacity in the various presenters from Experian who appear at regular joint seminars as well.

“The HR Manager at Experian in the first year, Julie Kirk and I built a relationship where we spoke fortnightly about HR issues and approaches. I personally gained a lot of insight into managing people  ­– as a principal in my formative years) – from these discussions where I would often troubleshoot staffing issues I was dealing with and wanted advice on. Their HR staff ran a variety of PD sessions for staff – everything from managing difficult conversations to facilitating a session where we came up with our values of Community, Ownership and Growth, which are central to all the work we do.

“I shadowed the ex-Managing Director of Experian for a day and gained some excellent insights into being a leader of a large organisation. He later followed suit by being Principal for a Day and was blown away at the work of a principal. I recall him being particularly moved by a home visit (as part of our Outreach Education Program) to a Year 10 student who lived in an out of home care arrangement in a residential care unit.”

McClelland’s marketing improved out of sight with strategies and insights that Experian was able to find. Experian helped to facilitate a strategic approach to the school’s ability to identify potential enrolment catchment within the local community.

“This included capturing complex data and (using Tableau software program) translating this into a digestible format that allows us to be more strategic in our approach to marketing our college to the community.

“When we commenced this work our student population was around 700 and we had an ageing demographic. Our marketing approach back then was limited to advertisements in the local newspapers and onsite marketing and signage. A plan was developed working with Experian’s marketing people which steered us towards a social media strategy based on the data from our potential enrolment community. We now dedicate a significant amount of our marketing campaign to our digital platforms. We currently have an enrolment of over 1000 students with 1080 commencing in 2022.”

The partners are now working on a female leadership program which is expected to launch in the new year. They will hold 60-minute sessions, once per quarter delivered virtually.

The female leadership program was developed in collaboration with the Women in Experian Network, as an opportunity to extend an internal program to impart knowledge and skills to support females in the community.

“In addition, we want to develop our female staff and feel a program such as this offers numerous benefits for both our staff and the school’s teachers to develop personally and professionally, with the overarching goal being to empower women to achieve their potential.”

“We have had a strong focus on building the capacity of our middle leaders this year and the Experian PD opportunity “Empowering Female Leaders” will complement the structures and professional learning modules we have already set up. We anticipate the PD will give our new and emerging female leaders, as well as our more experienced leaders, the explicit knowledge and know-how to respond to challenging situations with clarity and confidence.

“When working with the various stakeholders of a school community, challenging conversations sometimes need to be had in order to broker the best outcomes for students. The art of having these conversations in a way that is respectful and solution-focused is key to ensuring the best outcomes for our students and we expect the Experian PD to support our staff in achieving these goals,” he says.