Establishing a Feeder School System

4 min read
Oct 11, 2022 8:00:00 AM

Learn what a feeder school is as well as how partnering with feeder schools can help your student recruitment efforts.

Where do your new students come from? Unless you are running a preschool, chances are they are coming to your school from another school.

Identifying what schools are sending families into your school and improving those pipelines is a fundamental enrollment strategy for any public district or charter school.

But as with any relationship, they must be cultivated and managed to be effective.

What is a Feeder School?

Most private and charter schools operate as stand-alone schools. They aren’t part of a natural transition — like what occurs in the traditional public school district.

However, every admissions office knows that a small cluster of schools often “feed” a disproportionate number of families to their school every year.

woman typing on computer with plants in background

Nevertheless, even though many schools have anecdotally identified these “feeder schools,” they don’t take the next step to partner and deepen these relationships.

That is a mistake.

These schools must constantly be cultivated to create and deepen relationships in order to bring in more students. So how do you develop these feeder school relationships?

Going about this is rather easy.

Know Who Your Feeder Schools Are

There are two sources that you can use to identify feeder schools. The first one is your existing student base.

As part of your standard enrollment process, you should always ask what school the student previously attended. In taking this small step, you can identify who are your existing feeder schools.

In my opinion, the new student enrollment form is really a wasted opportunity for schools to gather critical marketing information. I cover this and other small changes you should make to your enrollment form to drive higher enrollment here.

Understanding who came from what school allows you to begin to make a qualitative judgment on the quality of the schools that feed into yours. For example:

  • If you know that students from feeder school X are particularly strong academically, you can then focus on that school to try to recruit high-achieving students.
  • If you know that students from feeder school Y are well-behaved and you are looking to attract serious and attentive students, then spend more time with school Y.

This is a bit of a change in culture.

Targeting the attributes of a student rather than just hoping good students come to you is not how K-12 schools normally work.

But if you think about how colleges (who have a targeted feeder school list) do it, it’s a similar concept.

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Understand All of Your Potential Feeder Schools

Knowing your existing feeder schools is just the first step. Your next step is to identify all of the potential feeder schools that you could tap into. A great resource for this is the website GreatSchools.

Using this website, enter your school’s address, and the site will identify every school within a five-mile radius.

It’s very easy to set the search for preschools if you are a K-8 school seeking to grow your base or to set it for elementary schools if you are a high school trying to make sure you are covering all of your potential opportunities.

While you may think you know all of the schools around you, you may be surprised. 

Once you have this wider list, review it with your staff to identify which schools should be a target for your relationship building efforts.

four people talking to discuss feeder schools

Build Relationships with Feeder Schools

Now that you have your shortlist of potential feeder schools, it’s time to create relationships with those schools.

Contact either the principal or guidance counselor — or, in the case of a preschool, the center director.

Offer to provide them a school tour or to meet with them to help them understand the specific benefits of your school for their students. You should always be able to articulate who your target student is when you are discussing your school with a potential feeder school.

This is critical for elementary schools.

group of young school children

Being able to recruit a strong kindergarten class is often a key area of strength for an elementary school. But many schools don’t actively reach out to the preschools operating in their area.

Now that you have identified your feeder schools and made initial contact, it’s important to continue to deepen that relationship.

Here are some ideas for how you can partner with feeder schools.

Feeder School Partnership Ideas

  • Offer a shadow day for their students at your school
  • Offer to link to their school’s website from yours
  • Match up your early curriculum requirements with their curriculum
  • Conduct joint service projects together
  • Invite their students to your athletic or art events
  • Include them in your art shows, or create a spot for their children in your school play
  • Have one of your teachers do a “pop-up” educational lesson on STEM or art for their school
  • Share feedback with them on how their students are excelling at your school
  • Allow them to use your facilities if they have a large event

You can also get some other fun and creative ideas in my colleague’s colleague’s blog post, 4 Fun Ways to Build Relationships with Your Feeder Schools.

There are many different approaches you can take, so try them all to deepen the relationship and figure out what works best.

Establishing school feeder relationships is an easy and free marketing program that will pay huge dividends as you attempt to recruit and enroll more students and should form the base of your enrollment marketing efforts.

To discuss enrollment marketing with an enrollment consultant, reach out to SchoolMint here.

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