When September comes around, for lots of families it’s time to start thinking about your child’s eventual move on to secondary school. No doubt you’ve already marked your calendar for the annual round of School Open Days.
Traditionally an Open Day is when parents of prospective pupils are encouraged to visit a school to see what it’s like. It’s a great chance to get a feel for the school, inspect the facilities and chat with pupils and staff. It’s useful to visit more than one school, even if you think you have your heart set on one in particular, so you can compare and contrast. Remember: selection is a two-way process. You are choosing a school as much as they are choosing your child and it’s beneficial to look beyond purely academic results and league tables.
Here are our top tips for making the most of a School Open Day:
- Do your homework beforehand
Go online and download the prospectus and any other resources. Chat to parents of children already attending the school to get their feedback. The gov.uk website has a comparison tool based on Ofsted inspections (www.compare-school-performance.service.gov.uk/).
- Bring your child along
The best judge of which school to choose is most likely to be your child. Their reactions and feel for the school will be an important part of your decision and will tell you if it’s an environment in which they are likely to thrive.
- Listen to the Head’s speech carefully then ask some tough questions
The Head is the figurehead of the school and should accurately represent its ethos and culture. If they allow time for questions then ask about class sizes, parent-teacher communication, how the school challenges high achievers and how it supports students who require extra help, what provisions are there for after school clubs and wrap-around care, etc.
- Observe the teachers
It’s the teachers who’ll have the most day-to-day impact on your child so take note of what they look like and their general demeanour during the evening. Do they look professional? Do they look like part of a team? How welcoming are they and are they keen to talk about the whole school and not just their own subjects?
- Quiz your pupil escort on the school tour – gently!
The students chosen to escort parents around on Open Days are usually the ambassadors and will be on their best behaviour! So as you go around ask them questions such as what they like best about the school, what they would change if they could, what their favourite subjects are (this often reveals the most popular teachers), what do they think of the Head, how involved are they in extra-curricular activities or sports teams?
It’s worth making some notes when you get home while the visit is fresh in your mind. If there’s anything you missed then you should be able to ask about it at a later date – and remember to ask your child what they thought!