The Changing Face of Australia: Why Schools Need to Consider the 5Ps
Updated: Nov 23, 2020
I wrote this article last year. I'm sharing it here and now, because it is an important reminder that the face of Australia is changing - and schools need to understand what this means for them.
The results of the 2016 Australian census confirmed what many of us already suspected: the face of Australia is changing.
"Australia is older, more ethnically diverse and less religious than ever before, according to the 2016 census results...." McGee, 2017*
This has meant changes in population statistics and socio-demographic profiles across some suburbs throughout Australia. Some schools are struggling to deal with reducing populations of school-aged children in their catchment zones, while others are facing high growth demand. Coupled with changes in other key demographic markers like family income, purchase behaviours and cultural identity, schools today, more than ever, need to develop an in-depth understanding of their key customers – their students and their families – so that they can better market and plan for the changing landscape.
What types of changes should schools be looking out for?
A cursory analysis of an Adelaide suburb using ABS census data reveals a few examples of the type of changes that are occurring in some suburbs across Australia. There are many other complementary sources available and some excellent socio-demographic profiling tools, which can add an additional – and often a key – layer of depth and understanding about a school's current and potential customers, which should be used to inform a school's marketing, communications and operational plans. The tools selected and the adopted approach will of course vary depending on the challenge faced by the individual school. The suburban snapshot provided, however, has been compiled to highlight the importance of understanding change at a local level.
The suburban snapshot (see appendix 1) shows the gentrification of Bowden**, an inner northern suburb of Adelaide, South Australia. Overall, the 2016 census data, compared to 2011, showed that there are now:
More families in the area
More families earning high-end income
More children aged less than 9 years of age
Less children aged 10-14 years of age
An increase in the percentage of females under 20, with the split now almost 50-50.
Schools that currently draw students in the Bowden area (or could expand their catchment area to include Bowden) might consider renewed/revisiting marketing in the area. The following suggestions are generic, and are by no means exhaustive. They are primarily included to encourage the type of next stage of thinking that should be adopted once changes in a catchment area have been identified. Individual schools should adopt a more specific and detailed approach that takes into account the uniqueness of their own business and their particular goals. A school should also always make certain to monitor the approach and ideally measure the impact of any marketing initiative.
General considerations for a school that draws (or might want to draw) students from the Bowden area:
Increase the number of pre-school and/or reception students at your school by tapping into the increase in family activity and the increased number of very young children (0-4 yrs olds) by: o Presence or support of local activities for very young children (like Kindergym, playgroups, library story times, council fun days etc.) o Presence at local support agencies and organisations where young parents spend a lot of time e.g., pharmacies o Presence/advertising/stories in materials being read by new parents o Active collaboration with childcare and early learning centres o Redesigned open days to take into account the change in the high-end income earners.
Increase the number of senior high school students at your school by tapping into the increase in family activity and the increased number of young people (15-19 yrs olds) in the area by profiling your school's specialised senior high school program at relevant career and job events.
Tap into the high-end income earners by engaging with the brands they use and materials they digest (this information would be available with extra profiling analysis).
Invest additional effort in maintaining your school's existing students in upper primary and early middle school. The number of these students in Bowden has dropped, which means if students in this age category leave your school they will be more difficult to replace. Reach out to parents of these students and ensure that they are satisfied with the school offerings to help reduce churn for your school.
Five Ps for Schools
In summary, schools need to understand what a changing face of Australia means at a local level, in terms of their current and potential customers - their students and their families. Schools must invest now more than ever, in knowing their business – and that means knowing their catchment and how it’s changed and likely to change. Equally as important, the understanding needs to translate into meaningful actions that can help a school continue to thrive. The Five Ps is one way to encourage schools to do just that.
Appendix One: Suburban Snapshot
** The area that makes up Bowden was reduced slightly from .6 square kilometres in the 2011 ABS census to 0.4 square kilometres in the 2016 census survey.