When do school open days take place and what do I look for at school open days are answered in the blog below.
School Open Days – what to look for in a secondary school
Is your child starting secondary school next September? Then now is a good time to start planning school open days or evenings. Usually held in September and October of the previous year – ie. as the children go into year 6 – open days are a great opportunity to see what schools in your local area have to offer.
When do school open days take place?
But remember, it’s also an opportunity for the schools to show off their best side and maybe hide some of their faults! Just like viewing a potential new house you should go into each school visit with both eyes wide open and not let yourself get distracted by the newly polished floors or the impressive selection of biscuits, or even wines, on offer!
Here are 10 top tips to bear in mind when preparing to visit schools this Autumn.
Don’t just go on results
It may seem an obvious point to make, but it’s worth remembering that Ofsted reports and exam results are only part of the picture. Schools may well have made improvements (or got worse) since the last Ofsted report and exam results may be slightly disappointing because many children have started from a much lower academic base. The opportunity to visit the school and ask questions is invaluable.
Bring your child along
Remember it is not you going to school it is your child. And it’s vitally important they are happy in order to thrive both socially and academically. They may well notice the things you miss during the visit that are important to them, such as whether the school has a good playground or a wide selection of sports facilities. However, rather than quizzing them on their opinion at the time, it is worth waiting until they have got home and letting everything sink in.
Quiz the hand-picked pupils showing you around
All schools will wheel out their star pupils to show you around. It’s only to be expected. However, don’t be afraid to ask them lots of questions about their experiences with the school. Their answers can often be very revealing and honest! For example, ask them about the quality of the teaching and what they enjoy or dislike most about the school.
Listen to the head’s speech
As with most businesses, schools are often a reflection of their leader’s vision – in other words, the head teacher. Often the head’s speech is very slick and persuasive but don’t be afraid to ask questions if there is an opportunity to at the end. This will help you get a much greater impression of what the school is actually like. For example, what is it doing to raise academic achievement? Does it care about ALL of the pupils or just those who are academic flyers? What percentage of children go onto University after they’ve finished secondary school?
What are the teachers like?
While it’s important to listen to what the head has to say, it’s also worth bearing in mind that he or she isn’t the one one who is going to be teaching them a daily basis. What do the teachers look like? Do they look professional and well turned out? Or do they look disinterested and like they don’t want to be there? Again, if possible ask questions particularly around the ratio of permanent teaching staff to supply staff as it can affect a child’s long-term academic achievement if their teachers are constantly leaving.
Visit all areas of the school
Usually, the guided tour of the school will take you around those areas they want you to see. In other words, the most visually attractive. Some commentators suggest asking to visit the school toilets or classrooms that aren’t highlighted on the tour to get a much more authentic feel for the establishment. Certainly, it’s worth taking a close look at displays on the walls and any artwork to get a much better impression of the school and its values.
Look at several schools – not just one
It’s tempting if you and your child both like a school to ‘call off the search’ and decide that’s the one. However, it’s important to go to several open days so you can compare them with one another, making notes of their pros and cons. This is particularly important if you are visiting several grammar schools as you may have to rank them in order when it comes to filling in your application form and may not be given your first choice.
Go to the school again
When buying a house, it’s always a good idea to have a look at the area at another time, maybe in the evening when it may seem more threatening or noise levels are much higher. The same is true for a school. If possible, go back when the children are leaving the school gates to see what they are really like. Are they still wearing their uniforms, or are they hanging around bus stops or fast food joints misbehaving?
What is the journey like?
One important consideration is the journey time to and from school. The school day may be much longer than at primary school and the journey may take much longer on public transport. How frequent are the buses or trains to and from school? Will there still be time for extracurricular activities in the evening, such as swimming, football or music lessons? If possible, make the journey in the morning and afternoon when the school starts and finishes to see how long it takes.
What is the school open day dress code?
Finally, dress suitably for the school open day. While not all schools are formal establishments with strict uniform guidelines for the pupils and teachers many still are. Consequently, you will probably feel more comfortable for a grammar school or private school visit if you are dressed in traditional business wear rather than wearing a pair of jeans or shorts.
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