School open days – make sure you ask the right questions to help you decide…
The season of open days starts in earnest in the autumn term and whether you are looking for a place in a junior school, senior school or sixth form college the advice is practically the same.
An open day enables a school or college to show themselves off in the best possible light to visiting prospective pupils, students and their family. The first rule is to expect a display of greatness. From this you will be able to judge whether what the educational institution does best is right for you or your son or daughter.
Speak to as many current pupils and students as possible. Don’t take the view of one or judge the place on one encounter. Have your key questions ready to ask them too. Remember not everyone will know every detail and sometimes pupil and student guides guess the answer so query the response with a member of staff if in doubt.
If you are able to speak to others connected to the school or college from the teaching staff to the person manning the car park then do so. From them you will gain an understanding about the ethos and what is valued and important.
Attend the talk given by the headteacher or principal and listen carefully as to how they present their school. There may be an opportunity to ask questions and have some ready.
Accept that this is an open day so there will be areas that are not on display. It doesn’t necessarily mean the school is trying to hide something sinister. Do not, therefore, be put off by rooms that are not obviously open.
If you are looking for an older student do ask about examination results but be wise to institutions that are academically selective. Ask questions about excess pressure and what is done to enable students and pupils to make the most of their time at school or college. Ask about former students and pupils – what are the recent leavers doing now?
Flashy facilities may instantly impress but look beyond this to ensure that the institution has substance and will provide the right environment. In an independent school most of those “nice to have” features are funded out of fee income and therefore ask questions about fee rises and what is considered an extra especially if affording a place leaves the budget tight.
And lastly if you like what you see return for a visit on a working day and witness first hand how staff, students and pupils interact. An open day is an opportunity for a school to invite everyone to their open house but the day is often busy and there may not be time for you to ask important questions or be entertained individually.
Open Morning at Portsmouth High School – Saturday 8 October 9.00 to 12.30 – find out more and book online via our Open Morning page
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