Founded in 1863, The London Oratory School is a Catholic state-funded institute of boys aged 7-16 years old with a sixth form for both boys and girls. It is an amazing mix of the old and the new, alive with traditions and equipped to be a truly modern school. Today the school educates 1400 pupils who brace the London commute daily for a school environment where every element of their learning is carefully thought out and built on traditional Catholic values. It is a truly inspiring example of the best of Catholic education.
Our conversations with The London Oratory School began during our work on the Newman Canonisation when we were honoured to work closely with their Schola, a famous choir of young boys who performed at the various events in Rome. At the beginning of 2020, we were approached by the headmaster of the school, Mr Wright, who was interested to know how a partnership with us might help develop the digital infrastructure and exposure of the school. This came at an ideal time, as the lockdown which subsequently followed meant that school required robust and consistent digital communications management. As the nature of the regulations for schools were developing significantly over the summer of 2020, so were our objectives and challenges. Our creative partnership with the school was perfect for allowing us to respond to the daily needs of the school whilst we developed and planned in the background.
The primary objective of this year’s work with The London Oratory School was to develop an external identity for the school which showcased the incredible spirit of traditional values mixed with high-quality, modern education. This meant that we had to start by analysing the school and understanding their vision in order to produce coherent branding.
Another goal was to coordinate and develop their external communications, with particular regard to their parental communication, which was in need of an update. Whilst working on this alongside the school’s Development Officer, we saw an opportunity to unite external communications in one platform, for parents, alumni and supporters of the school.
Finally, after the school’s open evenings were cancelled due to coronavirus, there became an urgent need to create an online experience. During this process, we determined that the school itself needed a new website altogether.
Upon our arrival, the school had relatively strong branding as all of their content was emblazoned with their coat of arms. This is a timeless and elegant icon which captures the crest of St Phillip Neri and the school’s motto, Respice finem, meaning ‘to have full regard to the true end’. Aside from the coat of arms, there appeared to be an inconsistency of colour pallet between publications, website assets, and other content produced by the school. However, a recurring light shade of blue and a monarchical maroon appeared a lot which had undoubtedly been taken from the coat itself.
Ultimately, capturing this school’s beauty was almost too easy, particularly when we had the opportunity to film, photograph and fly a drone around to capture smooth aerial footage.
Building on the foundations, we developed colour pallets consistent with the tradition of old but introduced contemporary accents. We determined a font scheme which brought together the old and the new, and reframed the crest into a series of three logos to be used in various contexts.
Like many schools in the UK, The London Oratory School was forced to cancel various events, including their open evenings for prospective pupils. As a result, we determined that we could use this as an opportunity to develop something new and exciting. We planned a series of content creation days at the school during the summer holidays and gathered an abundance of high quality video footage. This included interviews with various teachers and pupils, as well as plenty of drone footage inside the school and around the grounds. This became a simple and elegant user experiential website that allowed visitors to journey through the school as they would on an open evening. We were pleased to hear that this was greeted with a highly positive response from both the senior governance and the parents.
Building on this positive reaction, we determined that the school was in need of a website which gathered the same response in the day-to-day. We worked closely with the Headmaster over a number of weeks to rebuild the website and were ultimately able to bring it to a whole new life.
Firstly, we decluttered the website of unnecessary content which was complicating the navigation and the user experience. We then determined a suitable audience separating navigation, this was important as parents with children at the school are looking for entirely different content to parents of prospective pupils of the school. Our developers used our branding guidelines to develop a website framework that could elegantly showcase the school whilst remaining flawlessly functional. We worked with the school’s talented in house photographer, Mr Paul Flanagan, to capture school life as best we could given the coronavirus restrictions, and pooled videography from our previous content days. Once the site was ready to launch, we visited key individuals in the school to deliver training on how to update the website and add new content.
The nature of building content and a website during a pandemic is, of course, a challenge in itself. In addition, as the severity of the coronavirus pandemic grew and contracted, so did the regulations on school and on us as an agency. Fortunately, thanks to the incredible efforts of the staff at the school, we were able to overcome many of the challenges and carry out all of our tasks in a safe environment.
Perhaps the most significant challenge of the projects thus far is that we are not able to fully capture school life as it has been in previous years. However, we look forward to developing more content in the months and years to come when we will be able to showcase school life in non-socially distanced times.
As with all of our creative partnerships, our work with the London Oratory School is not finished. We will be working with The London Oratory School to redesign and update their various publications and external contents. We are also in the process of launching a portal for the school which will allow them to communicate more effectively with alumni, parents, and supporters.
The most significant advantage to our creative partnerships, like we have with The London Oratory School, is that we have the freedom to act quickly and think big. They allow us to adapt our objectives based on the current need, develop projects more deeply, and work closer with our clients.
From the launch date of the virtual Open Evening (30th September) to the time of writing this (10th November), the new website has had over 16,000 views. In condensing the content of the website we have reduced it from 340 individual pages to just 20 pages (mostly by moving all documents from site pages to downloads). This has helped speed up the website enormously and has simplified the user experience considerably.
We offer thanks to The London Oratory School as their on-going creative partner. Particular thanks go to Mr D F Wright MA (CANTAB), the Headmaster, Fr George Bowen C.O., the Chaplain, and the staff of the school, who welcome us regularly and support our work.