When to visit secondary schools?

(40 Posts)
mummy1973 Thu 09-May-13 20:28:06

Do most people go in year 5 to have a look round and how do you find out when open days are? We are in Hampshire. smile

Zingy123 Thu 09-May-13 20:35:34

We went last year before Dd started in Year 5. I wanted time to make the right decision. They are usually July and then September/October here. Applications have to be in end of October.

eatyourveg Thu 09-May-13 21:24:18

the timing of the y6 open days is far too near the date the application form has to be in so y5 is most what most people I know have always done.

invicta Thu 09-May-13 21:25:41

I went around a few in year 5 to show my sons what they looked liked and got a general feel of the place. Then in year 6 they are less daunting, and you can focus on key elements.

mummy1973 Thu 09-May-13 21:56:02

Thanks. So open days tend to be sept/oct? And do you just keep an eye on the schools' websites to find out when they are?

mummytime Thu 09-May-13 22:43:06

You also want to go and see the schools on a normal day not just an open day, if at all possible. That is normally done without your children.

I visited 1 school at the end of year 4, then went to open evenings with DH or by myself at the start of year 5, I also visited some private schools and talked to the primary school head. Once we'd made up our minds pretty much, I took my DC to the open evenings, and took their opinion into consideration.

For DC2 I just took them to open evenings of the real possibilities, and we discussed their views.

JenaiMorris Fri 10-May-13 09:31:31

I went in Y5 and Y6.

The open evening dates were all listed on the councils' websites and/or in the application guide (although we're in a different part of the world to you).

We also recieved invitations to open evenings via the primary, from a couple of local secondaries.

iseenodust Fri 10-May-13 10:38:40

Our catchment secondary sometimes runs sports events for the feeder primaries which is an opportunity to see how the secondary pupils (as youth leaders) interact with the young ones.

BackforGood Fri 10-May-13 12:46:10

Depends how many schools that you have a realistic choice of getting in to that you have. Where we live, I looked at 6 for my eldest, and went on my own, when he was in Yr5, to get a real feel for the school without getting distracted by all the "engage the child" activities on the way round, and also to try to narrow it down. If you only realistically have a choice of two, then it's perfectly do-able in Yr6.
By my 3rd, I just took her to a couple once she was in Yr6.
Here, all pupils get a booklet at the end of Yr5, listing all the open days and a snapshot of information about each school. Open evenings are all in the last two weeks of September.
Of course, if you have to work shifts or are committed to being other places, in the evenings, then it's probably best to try to get to some a year early.

mimbleandlittlemy Fri 10-May-13 13:57:31

We went round a few in Y5 and then targeted the ones ds wanted to have a second look at again in Y6. We had to put six on our application but I have to say that as he decided he wanted to go to our local feeder school I ended up putting that first, his second choice second then 4 on the list that I knew we wouldn't get if we put our feeder first and which we actually didn't bother to see given no one living where we live has ever not got the feeder which cut down quite how many we traipsed round last September.

OldBeanbagz Fri 10-May-13 14:49:55

We went round all the schools we were interested in in Y5 and then visited again in Y6. I found all the Open Day dates from their websites or by calling.

ChippyMinton Fri 10-May-13 16:20:01

Open evenings are great but are set up to showcase the school. For your top preferences I would recommend booking a personal tour during school hours as well.

BTW most schools operate 'turn up on the night' events and no-one is bothered whether you are Yr 5, Yr 4 or Yr 6. It's worth catching the headteacher's speech, gives a massive clue to the ethos of the school.

mummy1973 Fri 10-May-13 19:35:58

Thanks. And what happens at these open evenings?

MadeOfStarDust Fri 10-May-13 20:29:38

The open day and evening of the school we chose were completely different to each other.

Open day - head's speech, Y7 head speech, taken round school in groups of 10 (by a head of department) to see each department in turn, visit to library, food hall, sports hall and generally see the kids in class interacting.

Open evening, - head's speech, taken round in groups of 4 families by Y11 children - general free for all, see a little bit of not a lot - more "activities" for the kids to make the school seem like fun, but not a lot of information really and sooooooooooooo crowded it was unbelievable.

Much preferred the open day.

Elibean Fri 10-May-13 23:05:07

I've looked at one already, and dd1 is only Y4. I wanted to be able to go back in a year's time and see it again, as it has a lot of building work going on and is changing rapidly (improving).

The rest dh and I will look at early in Y5, so we can then take dd to see the ones that we consider possible in plenty of time.

greyvix Sat 11-May-13 00:24:40

Try to visit on a normal school day, rather than an open day.

TheWave Sat 11-May-13 00:44:36

Try to only go to ones you have a realistic chance of getting into as otherwise your DC or you might love one and feel disappointed.

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 00:59:48

we have open evenings and open mornings. they tend to be in June /July and in Sept /Oct.

ds is in year 5. We went to 3 open evenings at beginning of year 5 to have a look. That actually started us on a totally unexpected route, towards taking the 11+ for a Grammar school across the county boundary.

Open evenings are a presentation and a look around the school, uusually with activites in different areas.

Open days/mornings are with the school in full flow.

We are heading off to 2 open mornings in June, at 2 likely schools. I have already seen 2 schools will have open evenings/days in sept, so we will visit them then. Some of these are repeat visits to same schools (but now we will go during the day and see the school in action)

Days/mornings are much better as the school is in action, but it can be hard to justify too many days off school too early! Which is why we went to evenings first. It is a hard choice for us here, and I couldn't wait until Sept to see and then put in an application in Oct. We started looking because one school sent home invitations to Year 5 students.

TeenAndTween Sat 11-May-13 14:41:16

We visited open evenings in y5 of our 2 local schools (also in Hants).
This helped us get the general feel and an idea of what we would be looking for.

Then went back in y6 to open evening of our likely preferred one with DD1. We also went to open day to second choice (without DD1) and then open day to first choice (with DD1).

In our opinion, DD1 was not mature enough to make the choice, we were clear it was our decision but we would listen to her views.

Open evenings are advertised in local paper, but no harm in contacting school in July / early Sept to find out date.

Interestingly our 2 schools, both good academically, but with a very different 'feel' to them, so definitely visit, don't just go on Ofsted or a possibly out-of-date reputation.

Things we didn't find out but should have:
- do they stream (in my opinion a bad thing), or just set (a good thing)
- what is compulsory at GCSE, and how many extra options

Nehru Sat 11-May-13 14:42:35

Friday afternoon - by separate arrangement, IMO= you can see what the school is really like.Look at the kids loos - will tell you all you need to know

MirandaWest Sat 11-May-13 14:48:45

I need to think about this don't I (DS in year 4)? At the moment our village is in the catchment of v good secondary school but not convinced it will stay in that catchment as there are other nearer secondary schools. Will do looking in year 5 I think.

mummy1973 Sat 11-May-13 17:27:26

I definitely need to do some more research about the likely hood of getting in. We have one local school - results wise not good. There are another 3. The results get better the further away from home we go!confused

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 22:51:42

mummy - we are similar, local school is sink school

but the two good schools we like, although further away, take a lot of children from all over town, and there is no real reason why we wouldn't get into one or the other.
I know that isn't the same everywhere, but don't assume you won't get in, ask and see how far away the children were who got in this year.

Where we are year 5 doesn't seem to be a bulge year. dd2s year is huge bulge, hopefully if we need to we can get sibling preference by then, if none of them pass for the grammar

steppemum Sat 11-May-13 22:56:36

questions I asked:

sets - I wanted setting for each subject
science - wanted 3 sciences offered at GCSE not 2
languages - don't want them forced into German or Spanish (instead of French) in year 7 as already doing french
sports teams
music lesson availability
clubs - good indicator of what the teachers find important!
pastoral care - one school here has no tutor groups or class base for the kids, I don't like it
practical things - bus routes, lunch/canteen, lockers or lack of

BackforGood Sat 11-May-13 23:10:22

One thing it's worth having at the back of your mind, is, whatever the answer to all your questions on the day you look round, is almost certain to change before you get to GCSE choices - sometimes teachers leave and the school can't offer a subject (say German) anymore; sometimes a new HT (or sometimes HofD) comes and changes policy on things - eg setting; more often than not the Gvmnt will introduce some change to the system.
What you have to do is not get too fixated on one particular point (like a 2nd language or a 3rd science at GCSEs) but consider the whole package, including Steppemum's list.

Also agree about looking in the toilets.

My experience (3rd child transferring to Yr7 in September) around here, certainly, is that the better the open evening, the less good the school. The totally oversubscribed schools don't have to try so hard to impress as those with a less good reputation. Of course it's a generalisation, but I'm not the only person to comment on it around here.

Do a lot of talking listening to other parents in the area. Some will complain about things you think are a positive thing. Some will have an individual axe to grind, but if you listen to dozens, then you will get a general picture of the school and work out which go against the flow.

MadeOfStarDust Sun 12-May-13 08:27:30

Forget lockers though - my dd has one and never uses it - there is not enough time between lessons to put anything in or out, there is not enough time at break to get a snack/drink and get PE kit for next lesson etc.... I wish she would use it - even just for trainers/PE kit.... but totally impractical in real life.... we were told on open day it is the thing most parents ask about.

mummy1973 Sun 12-May-13 08:30:26

Wow thanks everyone...so helpful. grin Two further away weren't over subscribed last year so there is hope. I've decided to go along without dd first and ask for a tour in the daytime. I feel more armed to know what to expect now but please let me know if you have any other top tips.

Nehru Sun 12-May-13 09:08:35

Year 7 are obsessed with lockers. They are utterly manic about them.
It's American tv.
Then never use them.

BackforGood Sun 12-May-13 12:48:22

I think it depends where (geographically) in the school the lockers are. ds used his throughout yrs 7 -11, and, now in her school, dd uses hers every day too - indeed her PE kit tends to live in there and only the shirt comes home for the occasional wash. It's great not to have to lug it back and forth each day.
But ask the pupils that show you round.... try and get one that's not in Yr7 as of course they can't answer any of your questions, and if you are shown round by an adult, they give you the "hard sell". Older pupils will tell it as it is more often than not.

cricketballs Sun 12-May-13 13:24:35

I would agree with Backforgood - there are always lots of changes that happen in a very short space of time so the focus on what currently occurs at KS4 shouldn't be the forefront of your mind.

I would question through the suggestion by Steppemum that clubs give a good indicator of what the teachers find important; I find a lot of things important; academic, pastoral, learning styles, a student's future, a student's present but I don't run a club as I don't have time.....what does this say about me?

mummy1973 Sun 12-May-13 19:23:28

cricket balls...it may say you have too much paperwork too do! I'm guessing though that if all the clubs are sports based my dad wouldn't give two hoots! She is into the arts side of life.

mummy1973 Sun 12-May-13 19:23:56

dd not dad!

busymummy3 Sun 12-May-13 19:51:39

Can someone please tell me what is the difference between sets and streams thanks

BackforGood Sun 12-May-13 20:50:01

My understanding is that 'sets' set for each subject individually - so you might be great at French but less able at maths, and for each subject you would be in the appropriate set. With 'streams' they divide the year into groups and work on the presumption that if you are struggling with/good at one subject then you would be struggling with / good at them all.

steppemum Sun 12-May-13 21:23:27

cricket balls - what I meant about the clubs I think was a bit more about what is valued in the school, not really individual teachers.

Some schools seem to focus heavily on their sports clubs and teams, and have little else, others seem to have a interesting variety of quirky clubs, which always gives me the impression that they like to try in introduce kids to new things. One school was very proud of their debating club, but I thought reflected something about their values with regard to developing articulate free thinkers.
Obviously this is only an impression, and it may be totally wrong, but it all adds up to the overall impression you get.

cricketballs Sun 12-May-13 21:54:58

Steppemum; thanks for the reply, but to answer your point a lot of staff do not have time to run clubs, this does not effect the ethos of the school as a whole and should not be a basis of choosing a school especially as staff come and go

steppemum Sun 12-May-13 22:18:01

point taken

MadeOfStarDust Mon 13-May-13 09:03:19

WRT clubs - at my DD's secondary the sixth form run a lot of lunchtime clubs - I think if they have a strong interest in a subject they are encouraged to run a club once a fortnight- so they have clubs for Manga drawing, line-dancing, poetry, knitting, poster design and sculpture, as well as rounders, tennis and netball and general football free for all.... The teachers there run clubs some terms - drama, choir, debating, lots of sports, science, and some others.....

But to be honest we did not really look at clubs, other than to comment that there was a lot going on that wasn't just sport and some seemed very "inventive" .

One of the things that was encouraging to us when choosing a school was that HALF the A' level Maths students were girls - and that there were actually girls doing A' level Physics too! (3 out of our 4 local schools had around 10% of the A' level Maths students girls, and NO female A' level Physics students at all - and they hadn't for the past 3 years...).
We have scientifically/academically inclined girls and that said a lot to us..

Takingthemickey Tue 14-May-13 17:00:56

We looked around in first term of Yr 5. Also let the child have some input. We took DS to visit three schools that academically were quite similar but in terms of setting - urban, semi rural, sports etc were quite different.

DS beings sports mad we thought would love the school with miles of sporting fields, instead was excited about the school in the urban setting.

All things being equal I would allow the child to be the tie-breaker.

One question I asked at a recent open day was on movement between sets in subjects. This particular school reassessed quite regularly so a child that took a bit of time to settle in wouldn't necessarily be stuck in the wrong set all year.

Join the discussion

Join the discussion

Registering is free, easy, and means you can join in the discussion, get discounts, win prizes and lots more.

Register now