It's not often that professionals let you into their secrets, which is why Clare Salomon's session on social programmes was such a highlight of The English UK Student Experience Conference 2014.
Clare combines teaching with organising the social programme at English UK member centre, St Giles' Holborn in London. All teachers in the school are contractually obliged to run a certain number of social activities, she explained, talking about how she runs a regular timetable plus specials and a big event every week in the summer, when students may only stay for a short time.
"We try to create things that are memorable and generate photos," she said, explaining that the photos then help to sell St Giles to prospective students when they find them on social networking and other sites.
Clare explained that she liked to use London as a resource and also tries to use school premises wherever possible to avoid hiring costs.
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- Existing links and contacts: we have another school in Brighton and took an evening pub crawl there. That's a really nice way of organising something big with minimal effort - you just email your counterpart and do something big students will remember.
- Cheap gimmicks: when we gave out free moustaches with tickets for a boat party the photos looked awesome (and some students were still wearing them on Monday).
- Instagram and social media: Instagram is very popular with our students, who ask what our hashtag is and attach it to their photos. We have had students thinking of coming to London because our photos on Instagram looked most fun. It's literally free advertising; just remember to hashtag.
- Remember all ages: run events for younger students and events for mature ones too.
- Go with the times: during the World Cup we had a table football tournament in the cafe - Japan won and got a replica World Cup.
- Get teachers involved: what would the teachers like to do? One teacher who enjoys crafts made felt monster key rings and the students loved it. Another did life drawing and we put the pictures up to see if students could guess which teacher was the model. If teachers have to run events, ensure they're reimbursed for expenses.
- Be dramatic: pantomimes, drama club and charity challenges have been popular - using something like the Harlem Shake or the Ice Bucket Challenge shows your school is with it.
- Be safe: don't forget to make sure the risk assessment is done. Teachers are happier to participate if they know every eventuality is covered.
- Communicate: get the word out with posters, flyers, a monthly or weekly programme and a special noticeboard. Or even get a mini tablet computer to show students where trips are going, answer their questions and use Instagram - it saves money by saving staff a lot of time.
- Keep it fresh.