Education Eye: Making the most of school open days

Catherine Stoker
Catherine Stoker

Choosing the right school can be a confusing process.

Reviewing websites and listening to advice from other parents on the dinner party circuit are a great way to start your research.

There is however no substitute for visiting each school to meet key staff and take in the atmosphere for yourself.

You know your own child and whilst others can advise you, gut feeling often leads to the best outcome.

Many independent and state schools have open days in the coming weeks.

How do parents make the most of these fact-finding missions, seeing through the ‘marketing speak’ to make important school choice decisions?

1. Meet the Head. How accessible they are to prospective parents can be a guide as to how the school is run. It is crucial their philosophy for education meets yours. Do they come across as a capable leader, respected by staff and pupils alike and are they in touch with the day-to-day school life?

2. Observe staff relationships with pupils within a lesson environment. Is it formal or more relaxed and which will suit your child? Do all children appear engaged and included?

3. What curriculum areas are strengths for the school? Do these match your child’s interests and capabilities? Do the quality of teaching staff, achievements and facilities reflect this?

4. How is progress measured and reported to parents?

5. Is IT being used constructively, to support excellent and engaging teaching, not as a substitute for it?

6. If learning support is important for you, how is this organised and how is progress monitored?

7. Are pupils smartly dressed and belongings tidily stored around the school?

8. Are walls and furniture in good decorative order and does the site appear looked-after?

9. Can pupils speak confidently to visitors and talk knowledgeably about their school, outlining its strengths?

10. Do noticeboards give a picture of a busy school with a breadth of educational opportunity across all academic subject areas, sport, music and creative arts?