Primary school admissions, the opposite problem

(27 Posts)
Greatballs Tue 04-Oct-16 16:21:50

My children's school is currently slightly under subscribed. It usually is, as are most schools in the area. Schools are in competition for new children.

I gather, from reading many threads on here, that our circumstances are not the norm but I'd like some views from the other side of the fence as it were.

I'm a parent helper at the school, and help out at open evenings etc. It's that time of year again when people are looking at schools for their little ones, so school have bits and pieces planned in the run up to application time.

It's been a long time since I had to think like this myself and have got so familiar with the school that I've forgotten what's it's like to be a prospective parent. Given the circumstances, what would attract new people to the school? What would be off putting? Are there any obvious things that should be done with regards to promoting the school? What has impressed you or had the opposite effect when visiting a school?

shouldwestayorshouldwego Tue 04-Oct-16 17:13:38

Do you have a Christmas fair? Invite prospective parents to that and give them a chance to see the school community.

admission Tue 04-Oct-16 21:32:19

First thing I would say is that when you go into the school it has the right feeling to it. So work going on, all pupils involved but not necessarily in total quietness.
Secondly if you are being shown around at an individual level, who is doing the showing? At my primary school as a governing body we agreed this would always be the head teacher or the deputy head teacher (especially in foundation 1/ nursery as this is their strength). If I was being shown around by one of the office staff, then (no disrespect to them) I would feel as a parent that I would not be getting the full respect of the school managers as to the worth of my child.
Do not also under-estimate pester power of the children. We have an outstanding outside provision for nursery and reception year (which cost but worth it) and when you see the prospective pupils make a bee-line for the equipment and play opportunities outside you start to understand the idea that maybe the child will have a say in where they go to school as well as the parents. In the short term I would say try to make the corridors as attractive as possible and also the classrooms for the prospective pupils.
Not primary but an in-sight into secondary age pupils is when one pupil said they did not want to go to a very good high achieving secondary school because it was full of dead people. What he was referring to was the number of paintings and busts in the main foyer of the school of old (and probably dead) head teachers etc, whereas he was much more attracted to the school who had sculptures done by pupils and also technical design work in the foyer plus a bid screen TV with other info on. You do need to thing about your audience.

BertPuttocks Tue 04-Oct-16 21:48:58

I liked our school when I first visited because it was very family-friendly. They had toys and games set up for the children and their younger siblings. there was also the option of a free creche.

They also had some of the Yr6 children involved in handing out refreshments and leaflets. They were so lovely that I remember telling one of the teachers that I hoped my child would be like them one day.

I also liked the way the school seemed busy but without being chaotic. There were several small groups of children dotted around the school, doing work with various staff members.

I also liked that there was a full range of work on display rather than just the 'best' pieces. It gave the school a very 'inclusive feel.

Many of the new parents learned about the local schools' open days via leaflets and posters at their child's nursery or preschool.

OneEpisode Tue 04-Oct-16 21:56:25

As pp said, welcoming the 3 year old who might be next year's reception child, and also their younger siblings..

SienaSun Tue 04-Oct-16 22:51:03

I liked that we were shown around by the headteacher and she interacted really nicely with my little boy.
Other things I think are important were helpful, friendly office staff, kids are polite outside as well as in school, nice large school grounds, links with nearby nursery and special school, good before and after school care, nice feel to the school.

HanYOLO Tue 04-Oct-16 22:57:03

An open door policy - ie you can ring up and go round any time (means confident that all will be well on any given day)

Lively happy children enjoying their work

Best school tour I ever went to I was taken round by 4 year 6s who were charming, insightful, honest and a brilliant advert for the school. Met the head at the end for the technical stuff.

Greatballs Wed 05-Oct-16 07:20:24

Thank you very much for your responses. Certainly lots to think on. I remember from my own visits weighing everything up and then ending up going for a gut feeling. Difficult to quantify.

lacebell10 Thu 06-Oct-16 14:53:06

Year 6 pupils who are engaging and enthusiastic are your best ambassadors as leaders. Tasters of the school diners with staff prepared to talk about allergy concerns who know their stuff and can provide alternatives. If you got good results without cramming the student's at ks2 and ks2 it's worth shouting about.

SheStoodInTheStorm Thu 06-Oct-16 14:56:57

Admission - please PM me if you might be happy to share a few pictures of your outside area. I am a Reception teacher and outside is our weakest area and it saddens me each time I go outside! However, at a loss with what to do with it.

OP - a sense of community, being invited in, seeing the children in the classrooms/environments.

SparklyLeprechaun Thu 06-Oct-16 20:39:17

I liked the fact that the headteacher knew every child by name, they had some children involved in showing us around and they were polite and articulate. Nice play area was a big hit with DS.

But at the end of the day the most important things for me were the fact that it had a breakfast and after school club and an outstanding rating. To me, no amount of pretty pictures on the wall could compete with that.

slightlyglitterbrained Thu 06-Oct-16 21:05:31

Breakfast club & afterschool club essential here too - doing without not really an option for many parents.

DS's school was RI but obviously on the way up when we visited. Fab atmosphere, lovely outside play areas (DS cried at being dragged away as we went round), and looked like school that tried to cater for all children, not just the already academic.

Was also important to talk to head and teachers - reception especially so.

What put me off with other schools:
Not being able to see children as all sessions in evenings.
Headteacher seemed inflexible in response to parent questions.
Very late open days (end December!) and apparent lack of organisation from school office when asking about them. (Not just the visit itself - good informative website and clear comms is important too!)
Tiny cramped play areas.
Horribly noisy cramped classrooms.
Seemed very focused on academic achievement, seemed to be aiming at pushy parents.
Apparently expecting mummies to be doing all the school stuff.

Comiconce Thu 06-Oct-16 21:49:03

"I also liked the way the school seemed busy but without being chaotic"

This.

I looked at one school where there appeared to be no teaching going on except in one classroom. Another classroom had children literally jumping over tables (this was apparently group work- in what I am not clear) and there were too many children wandering the corridors looking utterly bored and not engaged in anything.

This was the 'outstanding' school.... I went on gut instinct on this one and didn't send my dd. The school has since come crashing down because the school relied very heavily on its intake's middle class parents doing all the actual work at home to get good results.

ChocolateWombat Thu 06-Oct-16 22:44:30

Good question ..... But it's not clear from your thread title what the thread is about. I hope you don't mind me saying, but you might get more replies if you reword the title.

When I look round, I'm keen to see examples of pupils work - not just on the walls, but in ex books too. I like to see the work and also the marking of that work. I find it very informative.

Yes, to the school being welcoming to visitors (even if it takes up lots of time and is a bit of a pain) and it is good to have a chance to at least meet the Head or a Deputy, even if the tour isn't done by them.

The interaction between the person leading the tour and your own children and with the children in the school is also telling.

Personally I'm not so keen on pupil led tours (more of a Junior or Secondary thing) as the pupils often can't answer all the questions.

I'd also be attracted by schools that have up to date websites, that seem to want to engage with prospective parents, that are open and honest about things like ofsted/SATs/ results and make those things accessible for those who are interested.

Making clear things like the range of clubs, out of school provision and other practical matters also helps a lot too. Even if theses are on the website, having so wing to give parents who are visiting,with that info can be helpful.

The schools I haven't liked, seem secretive and withholding of information. Whilst some go on about SATs etc too much, those who like to say they do to pay much attention to them, sounddishonest to me and as if they are hiding something...because they all have to take these things seriously in reality....and if you're interested in those things, you want to know the school will keep you informed about them.

And if it's a full scale open evening, a cup of tea being available is good. Don't mind paying for it, but I think it's a good thing and makes you feel welcome.

Schools don't have to go crazy trying to promote themselves with massive marketing campaigns, but being welcoming and supplying information are important.

Dixiechickonhols Thu 06-Oct-16 23:19:45

Do you have a banner advertising places available/open night on a prominent road. A local under subscribed school near us does that. Until I saw it I had no idea it was under subscribed and wouldn't have been on my radar.

Lemonsole Sat 08-Oct-16 15:37:35

All of you wanting to see exercise books, have lengthy conversations with staff - you do realise the pressures on schools these days, don't you? Realistically speaking, very few Heads are going to be trying to woo parents, many of whom have no chance of getting into the school anyway, when so many schools are oversubscribed.

I'd be horrified, frankly, if my children's school made their exercise books available to random open day visitors.

You are expressing a preference on your form; only rarely making a choice.

Obviously, private schools sell themselves in this way, but it's a totally different dynamic.

Getting a feel for your local primary doesn't need a song and dance. Let the staff teach.

ChocolateWombat Sat 08-Oct-16 15:54:37

Yes, but when I express my preference (and I know it's only a preference) I want it to be on an informed basis.

I would ALWAYS ask to see some exercise books or work, if they weren't on display, for Junior or Secondary schools - seeing what the kids are doing on paper (and I know learning is much more than is written down) and the kind of marking feedback and any follow on response from that marking tells me loads about a school. Effective marking and follow -up from it is what I leads to progress.....and it will be one of the thing inspectors look for, so why shouldn't I as a parent look for it too.

I think that an Open Evening is there to provide information for parents. If it was a working open morning, then I wouldn't expect teachers to stop what they were doing to engage with me or to get books etc out. However, if I felt I'd had no opportunity to see them at either an open evening or working open morning, I would mention seeing some to whoever was showing me round, or to a member of staff at the end of a tour. I actually feel it is very very important and far more telling than a glossy wall display or some children doing PE in the hall.

I might be a bit more demanding than many parents - but I think that schools should be willing to show stuff that is truly informative to prospective parents and if parents have individual questions, to try to answer them. Otherwise what is the point of an open morning or evening? Is it just so parents can say they have seen inside the school? If that is really all they are interested in providing, it is a waste of time really.

I can see that some schools are heavily over subscribed and don't need to woo parents. However, in my experience, the best schools which either achieve the best absolute results or add the most value and are over subscribed, also are willing to provide that information and the Heads in those schools have been willing to at least come and say hello to visitors and sometimes to lead the tours themselves. It ist about sucking up to the prospective parents, but showing they appreciate that it's an important thing for people and whilst in reality there might not be loads of choice for most, they accept that many parents take the issue seriously....and they as a school are too.

ChocolateWombat Sat 08-Oct-16 15:59:33

And actually, the OP wanted to know what does attract people or put people off. So she is thinking in terms of trying to appeal to people more, in a school which is currently under subscribed. There could be a variety of reasons for this, but one of them could be simply that she school hasn't done a good job at Open Morning or Evening to provide information or to show all the good things about the school.
It might be that the OP is just a parent who is hypothetically interested in this and that the school isn't. However, if the school itself is t giving this issue any thought at all, it may well remain under subscribed - not doing a favour for anyone.

Phineyj Sat 08-Oct-16 22:05:26

We have sent our DD to a private primary because it offers the following things. You can visit the school when your child is a baby. You don't have to rush round the year before they go. The breakfast and after school clubs have places for all children. Your child starts full time (none of the staggered half day nonsense - my poor neighbour had to wait until mid September before the reception class started, on a Friday, with half days). The school also gives detailed individual advice on secondary schools).

Basically, what I am saying is (I understand you will have constraints), become the working mums' school of choice!

Phineyj Sat 08-Oct-16 22:07:21

Oh yes - I forgot - Saturday open days. I'm a teacher - I can't get time off in the week!

Greatballs Sat 08-Oct-16 22:55:24

Chocolate - yes I am just a parent at the school. The Head, govs, staff, and volunteers are definitely keen to attract new families; it's not a lack of interest - more lack of experience / effectiveness in promoting the school. (Sorry about the obscure thread title too blush)

Some really useful ideas on here - some we're already doing or good at (friendly positive atmosphere, enthusiastic Head who will show people round whenever and talk the hind legs off a donkey give them as much information as possible. He also knows all the children well... and we do free tea and cake at open evening grin. All the staff are really approachable we do have a lot going on outside the 9-3 with breakfast and after school activities.

Dixie - love the roadside banner, I've looked into it!

Bert - this describes our school quite well, definitely inclusive of all abilities and siblings etc are warmly welcomed.

ShouldWe - We could do better at promoting community events like that to the wider local area. Have already taken steps in this direction, thanks!

Obviously a lot of things can't be changed - the buildings are old and in need of TLC, it's always cluttered as we have virtually no storage space (although work is happening to alleviate this a bit), the website / general communication is better than it was but still has room for improvement.

Am glad I asked, as I actually feel a bit more positive about what can be done flowers

slightlyglitterbrained Sat 08-Oct-16 22:59:53

Phineyj - I'd forgotten to mention settling in period. DS's school wasn't too bad - 2 weeks of mornings only. But some local primaries have some really screwed up extended "unsettling" period that goes on for 6 weeks and has something like two 2 hr sessions in a week. Which is frankly just perverse.

Either way, I'd want to know about it.

BaronessEllaSaturday Sat 08-Oct-16 23:06:02

He also knows all the children well... and we do free tea and cake at open evening

Open evening or open day. I would recommend both to appeal to the widest range possible. You'll get some parents who can't make a daytime visit and some who would prefer to see the school during a normal day.

gallicgirl Sat 08-Oct-16 23:06:18

When we visited my DDs school, I was struck by the enthusiasm of the headteacher. She knew children's names and the children were eager to show her their work when we entered the classroom. We did an evening tour in a group and a separate day tour so my DH could visit. I liked that the head spoke about the journey of the school and laid out plans for the future. After all, we were choosing a school that suited not only our 4 year old, but also our future 10 year old.

Greatballs Sat 08-Oct-16 23:17:22

Baroness - open evening, but anyone can make an appointment to visit during the day. Some people do both like gallicgirl.

Also, the standard start to reception is full time from the off. Interestingly, the school has become more accommodating to part time early weeks following requests from parents.

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