A WordPress multisite solution for a school trust

Ethos Academy Trust: Retaining unique branding of member schools

A network of school sites managed under one trust and built using WordPress to allow for easy content management, simple integrations and secure updates

A <strong>WordPress multisite solution</strong> for a school trust
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A centrally managed WordPress system

The Challenge

Ethos Academy Trust, a multi-academy trust (MAT), is a group of schools that unite strategically to develop best practices for the benefit of all. Formed out of a belief that working together and supporting each other enables its academies to secure the best outcomes for all of its students, Ethos Academy Trust needed a centrally managed system that showcased the individuality of its member school sites. It was important that each school site operated autonomously and with a unique presence while benefiting from generic content updates and consistent functionality. 

A vital feature of the build was the requirement for several secure portals, including staff, trustee and recruitment areas. In addition, the ability to highlight upcoming events (regular content updates) at each school was essential to the project. Ethos Academy Trust partnered with Feel Created via educational resource provider, Engaging Education, to develop a bespoke WordPress solution.

<meta charset="utf-8">A centrally managed WordPress system

The solution

Feel Created worked with Ethos Academy Trust via Engaging Education to develop a central WordPress system. The solution enabled a high degree of autonomy over the look and feel of individual school sites through an effective content management system (CMS). Flexible pages, outputted to match the school brand (no coding required), were incorporated to ensure users could easily update content following the site launch. Feel Created integrated existing systems utilised by the school into the build to ensure a smooth transition, with no downtime for users.

Highly cost-effective & supporting the growth of the trust

Feel Created developed a central WordPress system from which individual school sites were built out and designed the solution to incorporate the latest WordPress standard in updates and security measures. A network built around a central solution is highly cost-effective and supports growth in the trust. The solution acts as an ecosystem (with new websites built out from the existing system), bringing down the average development cost per school.

New schools added to the trust system are included with ease, rather than relying on an entirely new build.

Simple maintenance

By building the core system using WordPress, updates factored into the build save time. Future updates will be linked to each site within the network to save on labour and resources associated with individual site maintenance.

Maintenance packages recommended to ensure longevity and optimal functionality of site builds are advisable. Still, maintenance is much more straightforward for Feel Created to carry out when considered in the original design.

Flexible system, no coding or branding required

Feel Created builds its sites using WordPress. A block-based system was introduced to the Ethos Academy Trust project to ensure that the design incorporated a fully editable CMS for each school but retained the school’s branding as standard. Tailoring blocks to the brand style and colour palette of each school is possible with a block editor. The resulting easily-edited system makes content updates simple for internal users, which not only saves time but ensures the site is current and searchable.

Uncomplicated integrations

Each school within the trust had individual requirements to integrate existing platforms. These requirements were introduced as content objects to ensure that users did not experience downtime when transitioning to the new system. Bespoke Twitter integration on each school feed, with multiple feeds outputting from the school site, was a key project requirement.

Gated content via portals

The Feel Created team developed several secure areas for privately sharing staffing, governance and trustee information. These portals, accessible via sign-up, ensure that sensitive data is kept separate from the public-facing site but is visible and easily accessible if required.

The team developed a bespoke recruitment portal on the Ethos Academy Trust site, allowing for a centralised recruitment interface that is managed by the trust for all academies. The recruitment portal allowed applicants to create their own account, review available positions and submit an online application. Due to the nature of applying for positions in teaching and working with children, the application process is separated into multiple stages, enabling applicants to save their submission at any stage and return at a later time to continue the application and edit already submitted data. The feature gave the recruiting team at Ethos Trust the ability to review all applications and export for further review as part of their interview process.

Ethos Portals: Recruitment, Staff, Trustee

Engaging Design

The Feel Created team introduced visually impactful elements such as timed animations and a 'Meet the Team' feature to create a more engaging design. Engagement with key messaging was central to the project and achieved in a variety of ways.

Timed push notifications introduced to the design of each school site grabbed the attention of visitors by highlighting key messages relating to events and updates. And a calendar feature showcased upcoming events. Users can upload content knowing it will be presented to its best advantage on time via the automation of these elements.

Gallery Image

Simple management and distribution of content

A CMS introduced within each site ensured that every school within the trust had control over its content. The CMS gave users the flexibility to upload their unique content while benefiting from generic content updates. WordPress standards allowed a single point of setup for generic content, which is shared network-wide. Within this generic content (e.g. school policy), elements can still be personalised for each school setting, saving valuable time for users.

As part of the launch process for new sites to a trust multisite Feel Created provides a secure development environment, meaning that the school can enter all of their content ahead of launch. The site can be launched fully populated and ready to go, rather than launching empty with a requirement for rapid content updates.

School-specific features

Standard elements, such as high-visibility features and multilingual options for optimal inclusivity and accessibility, were considered within the design. Each system was developed in line with OFSTED requirements, ensuring that published content adhered to the correct standard.

The result

The Ethos Academy Trust has benefitted from a unified presence, with complete control over content updates across all its school sites. Each site, celebrated as an individual, is accessible for users to update without the stress of keeping the pages on brand. Each page outputs automatically to the unique school brand to retain a cohesive look and feel for each school. With no need for complex site maintenance, regular checks and tweaks are quick and efficient. In fact, new developments are possible to extend the core functionality. So, what one school gains, all other schools in the multisite network can benefit from - which are built once and usable by all.

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