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NEU, School Cuts

Award winning campaign that helped change 795,000 votes

Visit School Cuts

A groundbreaking election campaign tool that helped to change hundreds of thousands of votes *

The Brief

To build a campaign site which:

  • concisely conveys proposed funding cuts to schools across England and Wales
  • consolidates data so that it is easy to access and understand
  • engages the public with the democratic process
  • enables voters to lobby their MPs

 

The Campaign

The School Cuts campaign sets out to reveal the devastating effects of the Government’s school funding plans.

In 2016, the Conservative government was strongly influenced by a campaign called ‘the F40’, which aimed to redistribute schools’ funding away from better funded regions to those less well funded. The National Education Union (NEU), however, believe de-funding schools to be extremely damaging, proposing instead that the government should give more money to underfunded schools.

School Cuts grew out of an Outlandish Fellowship project called Keep London Schools Great.  Initially a self-funded, in-house initiative, the project turned out to be such an effective way of raising awareness that the NEU commissioned Outlandish to develop the tool to cover all of England and Wales.

Following the announcement of a snap general election in April 2017, the NEU decided to capitalise on the moment. There was now a real urgency to the campaign and Outlandish proceeded at break-neck speed to build a site that would communicate the hard facts of proposed funding changes.  

The project was executed with fellow CoTech member The Small Axe, who did the communications and marketing for the campaign.

 

 

The Site

schoolcuts.org.uk allows users to:

  • search for any school in England (by name or postcode) and see the retrospective change in their annual budget between 2015 and 2019. This figure is further broken down into budget change per pupil.
  • broaden the view to see the proposed cuts over the local area, with a similar breakdown into a figure per pupil
  • immediately share pertinent information through social media
  • become involved in the campaign

Furthermore, in the weeks leading up to the 2017 general election, the site provided:

  • a direct line to lobby local candidates to make a stand against cuts
  • information on which candidates had pledged to fight the cuts
  • an overall tally on pledges made within each party
  • a factual breakdown (thanks to some serious number crunching by the NEU) of how party manifesto commitments would affect some 18,329 schools across the UK
  • easily printable factsheets and leaflets

For tips on running an effective digital campaign, see our blog entry ‘How to run a great digital campaign’.

 

 

 

Our Technical Solution

The School Cuts campaign site provided us with a number of stimulating technical challenges.

Caching layers allow the site to deal with a large number of complex requests in a short period of time without the need for major server infrastructure (the site was visited by up to 10,000 users per hour during the election campaign).

School Cuts was originally built as an Angular web application. As the project developed, NEU wanted more elements that they could update, so we transferred the site to WordPress. It now features news and case studies that are particularly important to the campaign, and integrates a newsletter sign-up widget.

School Cuts uses the open source mapping and postcode server Postcodes.io, and MP data is sourced directly from the Parliamentary Digital Service.

The Impact

The School Cuts website proved a huge success, getting 670,000 visitors and nearly 3 million page views in the run up to the 2017 snap general election. The campaign helped to change hundreds of thousands of votes*.

School Cuts also won some awards:

Going Forward

Under new calculations, based on the latest funding formula announced by the government, nearly 98% of schools have had their per-pupil funding cut.**  

Outlandish continues to develop the School Cuts website, maintaining and promoting the fight against crippling cuts in funding for schools.  Furthermore, the site has now evolved into a platform that allows the client to perform multiple actions, potentially furthering the cause of other educational concerns, such as Special Educational Needs.

At Outlandish, we believe that more unions could benefit from this kind of project. We look forward to hearing from potential clients and collaborators in this area.

 

“I cannot remember a campaign as effective in recent years by any Union.”

Chris Cook, BBC policy editor, Newsnight

 

“Outlandish are a fantastic group of developers… The project was really enhanced by their understanding of how to present data for maximum impact with an intuitive user experience.

“Unlike so many developers they have very high standards, they believed in the project and wanted to make it as good as possible – rather than just working their way through a task list. I cannot recommend them highly enough.”

Andrew Baisley, National Education Union

 

*According to a survey by Survation, more than 750,000 voters were compelled to change their vote in the 2017 General Election because of the issue of school funding.

**Learn more about our methodology here.