Reimagining the road to Arden in 2020

Located 25 kilometres from Sydney’s CBD, Arden is a co-educational, non-selective Anglican school committed to delivering an exceptional education to students from pre-school to Year 12.

With a proud history spanning nearly 100 years, Arden’s students thrive in a caring Christian environment where they are nurtured and challenged, both academically and beyond the classroom.

Choosing a school for your child is one of the most significant decisions you’ll ever make. Open days are an integral step in a parent’s decision-making process. There’s no better way to get a sense for the culture, values and vision of a school, than experiencing it first-hand.

Each year Arden opens the gates at Beecroft (Junior School) and Epping (Secondary School) to prospective parents. This year, with the recent completion of its five-storey facility at Epping, community interest was especially high.

Over 800 people were already registered and excited to explore the impressive new facility which houses science laboratories, a food technology kitchen, resource centre, technology workshops, multimedia and design laboratories, as well as a recreation area on the rooftop and the Arden Creative Arts Centre.

And then everything changed. With the arrival of COVID-19 to Australia, Arden’s priorities shifted overnight. The safety of its students, staff and the wider Arden family became the School’s main priority.

A decision was made by Arden’s Executive that no parents – current or prospective – were permitted onsite and the Open Day was cancelled.

Arden’s Director of Advancement, Mrs. Jo Hutchens explains, “We quickly realised the seriousness of COVID-19, for us it was about keeping everybody safe. We knew we had to re-think what we were going to do”.

So, with the clear objective of showcasing the school, its facilities, its people and its values in a way that closely replicated an open day, Arden’s Webinar with the Registrar was created. Thanks to the support from Arden’s talented and innovative IT team, families could register online to attend the weekly webinar – exploring everything the School has to offer, without having to leave the comfort and safety of their homes.

For Mrs. Hutchens it was vital that the webinar was genuine, “I wanted it to be authentic, as if I were standing, having a conversation with a future family of the school”. Mrs. Hutchens begins the webinar much as she would a face-to-face conversation with parents: chatting about the weather, discussing COVID-19, checking on people’s welfare.

After Mrs. Hutchens’ introduction, parents hear from Arden’s Principal, Mr Graham Anderson. Mr Anderson expresses his regret in having to cancel Open Day, recognising the importance of a school tour in a parent’s decision-making process. He confirms though, that keeping the School’s community safe is the right and only approach this year.

Mr Anderson then goes on to thank parents for their patience and provides reassurance that despite the disruptions, the School remains focussed on providing consistent teaching and learning – emphasising that Arden students are; Well Known, Well Cared for and Well Taught.

Parents then watch a video that provides a real insight into daily life at Arden, showing highlights of the 2019 school year.

And finally, Arden’s Registrar takes parents through the enrolment process – a journey the School refers to as ‘The Road to Arden’. In this live Q&A session, parents can ask questions in real time. Staff are on hand to answer questions using a chat function with the answers published so that everyone in the webinar can view them.

The webinar lasts 30 minutes and effectively communicates Arden’s culture and vision in a dynamic and engaging way thanks to the live and interactive function.

The response to Arden’s webinars has been overwhelmingly positive. With feedback from parents around its professionalism, and a significant number of applications directly connected to registrations for the webinar, Mrs. Hutchens considers the project a success. “It offers a wonderful glimpse of the School for mums and dads. The application data shows us that the webinar is giving parents enough of a sense of the School and our culture for them to feel confident to take the next step in applying.”

For Mrs. Hutchens though, nothing can replace welcoming future families into the school in person. She explains, “I’m an advocate for ‘every day is open day’, we just can’t wait for it to be safe to open the gates and have families back at our school”.

Interested in discovering what Arden has to offer? The webinars are running every Friday during term time, for the rest of the year. It’s simple and easy to register here.


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