It’s not every day we get our School Guide smalls in a twist. But when top entrepreneur and chief executive of Knickerbox and Anne Summers Jacqueline Gold announced our parent-friendly school information site had won one of her sought-after #WOW awards, we were all in a flutter.
Jacqueline started the Women On Wednesday or #WOW awards on Twitter two years ago to support female business owners. Each Wednesday, British women working on the world wide web send their site name and a brief pitch to Jacqueline via Twitter with the hashtag #WOW. Grab Ms Gold's attention with a strong brand, product or service and you can be selected as a weekly winner,
invited to join her exclusive #WOW club and even go forward to win #WOW of the year.
So, that’s how little old me got to be a #WOW girl. The feeling? It means a great deal to get recognition and, even though School Guide is just a month old (we launched on 14 May 2013), it’s been almost 18-months of hard work to create the parent-friendly website and make sure every school in England is listed. (Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are set to follow at the end of June.)
The idea for a school information site for parents came about when I was searching for a school for my own son. I had to do a vast amount of homework on different school and education websites to get a full picture of each local primary. School Guide short cuts that process. Type any school in England in to the SEARCH BOX and it will return a school information page that includes up to eight fields of key data from exam results to Ofsted rating and teacher/pupil ratio. We put school website addresses and telephone numbers at parents’ fingertips too.
I’m particularly proud of School Guide’s strong colour-coded design, which may well have caught Jacqueline Gold's eye. In fact, our primary schools are listed in hot pink league tables just like the #WOW badge sent to me from Jacqueline’s office. I do love an award but colour coordinated ones are especially welcome.
I think the design is an essential part of our mission to help parents more easily understand school statistics. Percentages and results are often dressed-down in black and white spread sheets or plonked on a greyscale table. Our bright school pages *POP* with information and our dials whoosh on screen to high or low readings.
My hope is that excellent design makes the data content super easy to understand. (Talking of easy, did I mentioned that our recent BBC Feature was set to the soundtrack of Easy as ABC by the Jackson 5? Oh I did already?! Shucks.)
School Guide has been a fantastic team effort including some incredible backend coding. The simplicity of the site belies its complex foundations. Adding 25,000+ schools each with specific geo locations, website addresses and multiple data points from three official sources has been a work of genius by our Head of Computer Science Tom and his Geek Prefect Dan. (Bit scared to mention our fantastically strict Chair of Governors Neil in case I spell something wrong and get sent to stand outside his office!) So I am of course accepting the badge on behalf of the boys in the office too. (Real men LOVE pink as my 9-year-old son told me when he asked if his new CROCs could be bubble gum pink this season.) It’s a huge boost, and has made us more determined to make school data as parent-friendly as it can be, especially as we are now working super hard to add Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish data.
We built School Guide for parents – all of whom should also get an award for just getting their little darlings to school every morning.