If you're attending school open days this September, read our tips for how to get the most out of your visit.
The nights are drawing in – late September is almost upon us and it is that time of year that thoughts turn to school open days. There isn’t any substitute for going along: entering the school grounds will provide you with insight into the world of independent education and allow you to obtain a genuine feel for the atmosphere and culture.
Top tips for getting the most out of a school open day
* It is vital that you arrive prepared. Go online and read all of the brochures thoroughly – some require online appointments so make sure you get this all in place before you head off. If you have missed a particular open day, it is likely that they will offer a second viewing at the end of October – most schools tend to have two.
* A checklist will ensure that you really make the most of the experience and find out exactly what you need to know.
The ‘School Life’ checklist:
1) Leave plenty of time to get there (if you arrive on time you will have first choice and remain relaxed upon arrival)
2) Make sure you’re clear about what you’d like to find out
3) Bring your child with you for their feedback– (your child’s comfort and feel for the school is the most important part. Children are intuitive and will get an idea for whether they would feel at home)
4) Talk to as many people as you can: pupils, teachers and the headmaster, ideally, and don’t be afraid to speak your mind
When you arrive it is likely that either the school prefect or a sixth form student will show you around. They will act as your guide and answer all of your questions. While it is important to be shown around by a well-informed guide, make sure you take yourself for an independent walk with your child to and communicate any reservations you might have between yourselves – don’t be nervous about doing this. You want to find out everything you can.
Questions to ask at the school open day:
* What makes your school unique and are you happy here?
* How many pupils branch out onto further education?
* What sports, music facilities do you offer?
* Are there any after school clubs available?
* What is the food like?
* How is the day structured and what time will my child begin and finish?
* Is there a healthy balance of fun and academia?
* Do most of the children board?
* What are the classroom sizes like?
* Is there Saturday school?
* What is expected of my child with regard to homework?
* What school trips are available?
* Is the curriculum broad or well balanced? (You want your child to be successful but not too compelled in pressure)
* Would you send your child here?
As you embark on your tour it is important to measure every step of the journey. Do you and your child feel comfortable? Is there a positive and happy ambiance? Do the pupils and teachers seem interested in you and your child’s welfare?
Questions to ask yourself:
* Is the school in good condition or does it need a bit of TLC?
* What are the facilities like and will they be developed?
* How selective is the school academically and what is the current pass mark for the common entrance exam?
* How much freedom will my child have here?
* Is there a bullying policy?
When your tour is up, it is likely that you will have an opportunity to meet other parents and children on a more informal footing whereby the teachers and the head answer queries over coffee and biscuits. Make sure you talk to other parents, to get their thoughts and to get a feel for what you have in common, as you will be in close touch with them if your and their children do end up there!
On the way home
You might be enthralled by your experience or you might have disliked this school – you will probably come to feel more experienced once you’ve seen a few schools so bear this in mind after the first visit.
It’s worth making some notes on the way back while the visit is fresh in your mind. Further questions can be answered by school staff at a later date – and remember to ask your child or children what they thought!
* Follow Country Life on Twitter