Visiting a school is a chance for you to see where your child will be spending a big chunk of their life. It is important to know that they are in a place where they will be comfortable and safe, as well as challenged and engaged. Each schooling choice has a knock-on effect — from primary school to high school and university, right through their working life. Choosing carefully will set up your child for positive learning experiences that will impact how they feel at every stage of their education and career journey.
A school is on its best behaviour during an open day. The students who are put front and centre are the cream of the crop and a good indicator of what your child could achieve. They can also be a valuable source of information about the school and its culture. Talk to them and ask questions regarding what they like, what they’d change and what they want to do when they leave. Talking with current students is a good way to gauge the culture of a school and how your child will fit.
Open days provide an opportunity to see everything a school has to offer — so it’s beneficial to stay for as much time as you can on the day. It’s hard to manufacture the feel and atmosphere of a school and classrooms, which is why it is so important to do more than simply look at brochures and images on a website. Talking to the principal one-on-one can help you understand the overall vision of the school and how it operates, while engaging with the staff who could be responsible for your child will help reduce your and your child’s anxiety about starting a new school. Don’t be afraid to take a wander by yourself. Schools have a strange ability to make even adults feel like naughty kids, but no one will tell you off if they find you taking a look outside the predetermined route.
For parents who are new to choosing schools, it can be difficult to know what to ask. Below are a few questions that can be useful to help find the right match for your child:
· What extracurricular activities are available?
· How does the school deal with bullying?
· What is the staff turnover?
· How does the school support under- and over-achieving students?
· What are the homework expectations?
· What are the school’s expectations of parents?
· Are there any scholarships available?
· Would you send your child to this school?
It can be useful to attend more than one open day for each school you are considering, ensuring you have the broadest view possible. Many schools offer school tours and opportunities to meet with the principal throughout the year in addition to their main open day. Ideally, the school you choose will be your child’s second home for the next six or even 13 years, which makes it vital to find the best fit for your family.