Searching for a school (part 1)

Several fields in Register require users to search for a school - placement location, lead school and employing school.

Our first placements iteration did not go too deeply into this - we started with an input, but assumed we’d come back and add some kind of lookup.

When testing entering schools as part of the placement data we found that:

  • participants accepted the need of using URNs
  • finding the URN could be fiddly and slowed participants down if they did not already have it
  • there was some mistrust of URNs and consistent preference for using the name and postcode to both identify and confirm schools
  • participants commented that they would like to see the name of the school to help confirm the URN is the correct one

“URNs are unreliable: Because a school has gone from school to trust etc. these numbers might change.” P4

The Get information about schools service has a school lookup with an autocomplete - which demonstrated that it was possible to reasonably search across 30k schools.

In this iteration, we’re using these findings to explore using an autocomplete for the lookup. It looks like this:

A user types in a school name and is shown a set of results that narrows as they type more characters.

You can search by school name, URN, or postcode.

There are lots of schools with similar names - which is why we’ve included the URN, town, and postcode. Searching for a URN is something we’d like to encourage as you’re more likely to get to an exact result. If the name returned is the one you know, you’ve definitely picked the right one.

Searching for a URN looks similar:

A user types in a school URN and is shown a set of results that narrows as they type more characters.

There are some pros and cons of using an autocomplete.

It will require JavaScript and an Ajax call to look up the results - we can’t progressively enhance a select as there are close to 30k schools to search from! This means we’ll need a no-js journey - likely to be a combined search box and a results page.

A reason to do this over and above a search results page is how quickly users can narrow down search results. The feedback is immediate - particularly for schools they know and are familiar with.

This design assumes that all schools that might be needed will be listed. There may be times when this will not be the case, such as early years settings. For those cases, we’ll need the ability to add free text rather than picking from one of these options.

Suggesting likely schools

Providers will tend to work with the same schools again and again each year. It’s likely the same 5 schools will be selected again and again. We’ll definitely need a generic lookup (above) but for the common case it’s likely we’ll be able to offer a list of recently used schools to pick from. It will take some time to work out how to compile such a list and think how it might get updated.