DD1 will be starting reception next september. DH has phoned the local schools to ask about visiting and I was disappointed that 2 out of the 3 are inviting parents in outside the school day, with meetings for prospective parents at 4.30pm and 7pm. Is this normal practice? On the one hand I understand how much easier it is to do it this way, but OTOH I think it's impossible to get a true impression of a school unless you see it up and running with all the children in.
We don't really have a lot of choice about schools, DD will almost certainly go to the closest one but I'd like to see what the atmosphere is like.
(I'm a KS2 teacher and don't actually know a huge amount about my school's own admissions. If I were at work I'd have a chat with the EYFS leader, but I'm on maternity leave.)
We arrange to see prospective parents when they want-within reason! Most want to come and view whilst the school is open, as you say you don't get the real feel when it is quiet and empty, but some can only come after work so we oblige!
Our school and local schools do it during the school day. I think as you are on mat leave you might do well to be passing each school on a friday afternoon at home time on different weeks, you will get some sense of the children and how they conduct themselves. Also if there isn't too much time pressure then find out if/ when christmas fairs are and go and have a nose around, there will be lots of children there, see how they interact with each other!/ Parents etc. Most schools will be only to happy to have a few more pennies from you in their pot. It's not the same as seeing them in action, but will give you some sense. You can also ask local parents at toddler groups, though might make you more confused.
Just today DC school had an open-afternoon for reception 2012 starters. 1:30-2:30pm, was very friendly. There will be two more afternoons this autumn like that. Reception this year is very down in numbers (35, usually is close to 50, so I suppose they are keen to recruit!).
One couple turned up who I didn't recognise. Otherwise it was just FOUR of us who already have kids at the same school, and had all attended the same toddler group this morning & decided to go along en blocque, so that we wouldn't feel like eejits. Very cleekey, I know.
The primary my DC attend hold an open evening - its hectic and about 80% are parents of existing children, going to view their work, see the choir etc
I am taking my DD to an open morning at a different school tomorrow - she may be moving. I think it will be mostly pre-schoolers at it, apart from us (so we will not be able to slink in & out). I have already checked that they have space in her year for her to move this term if necessary.
Thanks all. Seems as though many schools do 'allow' parents in during the school day.
3duracellbunnies Thanks for the suggestion, I was considering attending the Christmas play or fayre or whatever they have, I might just do that. DD's nursery is on the site of the closest school (but entirely separate) so we see the children arriving in the morning and they seem fine, not ringing any alarm bells with their behaviour!
The two local schools I was interested in both said cine in ehever you like, and the head teacher showed me round and took me into classes, interacted with children etc. It might be due to the fact they are small village schools, obv would be harder in a large school. But I was impressed and enjoyed getting a sense if what the schools were actually like.
Our local school mostly arrange 'open' sessions during the school day. You just call each school to book a date and time slot. Often the older children escort parents round the school and a senior teacher is available to answer questions at the end.
Our school you could come when you liked. 2 year 6s took you round the school and showed all the classrooms etc (obviously they're only picking the dependable ones but I was impressed by that and you could chat to them and get a child's perspective) then a meeting with the head.
Two of the schools we'll be looking at are infants, so getting the children to show parents round probably wouldn't work.
They're not small schools, but not huge either- 2 fom entry. I guess in smaller schools the head or deputy can be spared for a short while, and larger schools are more likely to have admin staff who can do it.