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School open days what do I need to know?

(24 Posts)
GingerPuddin Mon 05-Jan-15 11:26:31

We have two open mornings at the local primary schools coming up. What sort of thing should I ask or look for? We're planning on taking DS so he can have some input. Both schools near us are rated good and I've heard good things about both.

footallsock Mon 05-Jan-15 12:00:37

Is this for this years intake? You need to think what is important to you and look at those aspects - size, location, faith, cultural mix, formal or not, extra curricular, music, sport, after school stuff etc

Seeline Mon 05-Jan-15 12:26:21

See how the children behave as you go round - are they engaged in their work, get on well with staff/teachers/each other. Is there lots of work up on the wall that is obviously done by the kids?
Is there lots of extra-curricular stuff and at what age are they allowed to participate.
If you need wrap around care is there breakfast club/after school club and what is that like?
What play facilities are there - playing field, separate play areas for reception/KS1/KS2.
Is there any interaction between the years eg reading partners higher up the school, or play time buddies etc.
My MIL (ex-teacher) gave me one thing to look for - the state of the loos grin Not sure that was particularly helpful!!

GingerPuddin Mon 05-Jan-15 12:51:04

He'll start next sept.
Thanks for the advice. He's my pfb and I'm slightly freaking out about him starting school. He goes to nursery a day and a half per week and usually likes it.

TeenAndTween Mon 05-Jan-15 13:03:04

"so he can have some input" You know your child best of course, but what if he prefers a school you don't rate? We didn't think our 10 year old was mature enough to have a great say in her secondary school, let alone a 4 year old. Also you may want to be focussed on the tour / asking questions, not on your DS.

I would want to know
- how they teach reading (expect phonics, no mixed methods)
- how 'formal' yR and y1 are
- how parents can communicate with the teacher (eg all via the office, or can you 'catch' the teacher at the start or end of the day if needed)
- is work displayed of a wide range of abilities (or are only the high achievers appreciated)
- what will they do if your DC is struggling
- what will they do if your DC needs stretching
- how do they manage poor behaviour / manage bullying (if they say there is no bullying then run a mile. All schools have some instances, it's how they deal with it that matters)

Bonsoir Mon 05-Jan-15 13:05:13

Little DC do not need to go to open days.

They do, however, require access to plenty of attractive outdoor space, several times a day. To kind and attentive teachers. To an ordered environment.

And you should be looking for a very explicit curriculum and home-school contract.

NotCitrus Mon 05-Jan-15 13:13:08

What are the admin staff like and what do they say about the head? Are they scared of him/her?
How do they cope with parents with say a baby in a buggy? Do they sound like they have a clue if you ask about how they deal with additional needs, or like they will try to get rid of such a child ASAP? What do they do about bullying? Any plan is ok, but not "we don't have bullying in this school". What behaviour sanctions are used in the first few years? Ds's school knows small children need to run about so they might be "kept in at playtime" but for an absolute max of 3 minutes!

EssexMummy123 Mon 05-Jan-15 13:17:28

How many intake for reception, is the school usually oversubscribed, how often do they do games/PE, is there one teacher for reception or job-share - if job-share how does that work out etc

If children are showing you around then, do they like school, what are they currently learning,

GingerPuddin Mon 05-Jan-15 13:20:13

Thanks for these. I'm going to write out a list of questions and things to look for otherwise I'll forget something important.

noramum Mon 05-Jan-15 13:22:14

I wouldn't take him. If it is a formal open day there will be a talk of around 20-30 minutes and you won't be able to concentrate with a young child in tow who will be bored.

We took DD only for one as we didn't have childcare available that day and it was definitely less informing than the ones only DH and I attended.

For us it was important to see how the children react when a teacher or the head comes in and also how the head is putting his/hers preferences. We had one school where they only spoke about their SATs results and all the work on the walls were nearly perfect. I felt for the children who weren't in the top of the class.

meditrina Mon 05-Jan-15 13:26:07

I know this is stating the bleedin' obvious, but make sure you do not miss the applications deadline!

Remember that all schools with pupils in them are much louder and chaotic than anything you'll have seen at a nursery and that this is normal.

If you allowed to see the loos, then remember there's a difference between 'it's just after break' levels of mess, and 'this hasn't been tidied deep litter of towels/paper and clearly no-one's even been in to flush at any point during the day'.

Are the wall displays reasonably in date? A school still showing Hallowe'en in January is a bit odd.

Finally, do you have anywhere you can leave your DS? Because his views on a good school might be totally random ('but I like the one with the red climbing frame') and conflict with where you think he'll thrive.

footallsock Mon 05-Jan-15 13:48:50

I am still confused on which Sept as only days until the deadline. It's very early to be looking for 2015 ? I wouldn't take DC unless totally unavoidable. It's not their choice

GingerPuddin Mon 05-Jan-15 14:03:05

Yes the deadline is the 15th but the open mornings are this week so fingers crossed we like one of them. We don't have any child care so will have to take DS. Of course DH and I will make the choice on which school will be best for him but if we're happy with either if DS has a strong preference we'll take it into consideration.

footallsock Mon 05-Jan-15 14:05:10

Have you researched your odds of getting a place too? It may not be needed but you should think about a third choice

manchestermummy Mon 05-Jan-15 14:08:16

I mean this in the nicest way possible, but you can't invite your DS's input on this issue. If he's anything like most children I know, they will decide they like or don't like a particular environment on the basis of something that will not form any part of your decision: the colour of the carpet, or something.

I would also ask the school if children are welcome to attend because it's possible that they might not if at all avoidable. When you do decide on a school and your place awarded, there will be opportunities for your DS to visit, including possibly a taster session or two.

And as others have said, if he's starting in September 2015 the deadline for applications is very, very soon (the 15th of this month I think!). If you're looking for September 2016, again, the deadline will be in the January of that year.

manchestermummy Mon 05-Jan-15 14:10:55

Oh sorry, I can see you know it's the 15th.

Just to be very annoying though, what happens if your DS loves the school and you don't get a place? At this age they can't possibly understand the school preference thing.

Had I asked my dd1 which school she wanted to go to, she'd have opted for the school of the nursery she was at three miles from home, and which we'd have little chance of getting into.

Manage his expectations carefully...

footallsock Mon 05-Jan-15 14:11:48

When we looked I have to say it was very clear which we preferred. Most people I know said the same, so don't panic. Do fill your application in asap however!!!

JuniperTisane Mon 05-Jan-15 14:15:53

We have an open afternoon on wednesday and I've arranged for my sister to babysit for a couple of hours rather than drag two fed up preschoolers around. He hasn't come to the other two school visits we've done either.

My only advice is to see how open the staff are answering any questions and see how engaged the children seem doing their stuff.

PercyGherkin Mon 05-Jan-15 14:25:41

Have you filled in the rest of the form (figured out how the online application process works), got any supporting documents ready to send or uploaded? Worth doing that now if you haven't already. Being so close to the deadline and still not decided makes me feel a little bit sick on your behalf.

As said above are you happy that the stats suggest you will safely get into one of those two or do you need to have a third choice (or more) lined up (and yes, previous year's admissions stats do not necessarily mean anything in other years). It's great you've got two good schools near you that you have heard positive things about but depending on where you are in the country you may not actually have a choice - lucky you if you have!

manchestermummy Mon 05-Jan-15 14:26:22

I have actually thought of a very important question:

What are the arrangements for new starters? Do they do full time immediately, is it a staggered start? I know they are supposed to offer ft places at the very beginning, but many schools still don't. We managed (just) to accommodate the two weeks pt, but some other parents really, really struggled.

footallsock Mon 05-Jan-15 14:32:44

We had FT but staggered starts. It may not change your choice but you may want to know to plan it. I assume if he is not at daily nursery now then wrap round care is not that important to you - unless you are going back to work?

JuniperTisane Mon 05-Jan-15 15:59:01

All of our local schools do staggered starts taking around 3 weeks to reach full time for all reception pupils.

I do feel (stupidly as it makes no difference) slightly uncomfortable leaving it this late to complete the application online but we had no choice as the last school I want to see wasn't available til this week.

afussyphase Tue 06-Jan-15 13:47:58

We're in the same position - visiting one of 3 schools we could potentially get into this Friday!
One we visited said that they really recommended people bring their young DC, and it was completely inappropriate-- the entire tour was the person (leading the tour) talking at adult level, while we stood still listening and asking questions. DD was, miraculously, quiet and fine for a whole hour of this, seeing all lovely displays and rooms while not being allowed to touch them or play with anything or do any of the activities she could see happening. When the staff member asked her towards the end if she liked this school she quitely said "No" (!). So I'd say don't bring your DS unless you think there is a good chance that he'll cope with this, or you can give him a phone/tablet to play with.
Incidentally, this school seemed (and is reputed to be) fabulous. We likely won't get in. However, they came very close to the "bullying doesn't happen here" line and I thought it was very bad judgement to be telling parents that we should bring young DC -- this makes me feel just a teeny bit better about the fact that we likely won't get in!

hiccupgirl Tue 06-Jan-15 19:03:17

I'd go on the feel of the school above everything else - does it feel right for your child, are the staff reasonably relaxed, the children looking happy and does it have a decent outside space for Reception, especially space that is still useable in the winter when it's wet and muddy.

We did take DS (who started this year) on 2 visits because we had too and his preference was the school that had fish out for him to play with. We choose the 1 he hadn't looked round and when he asked I told him it was the one with the fish. He didn't remember which was which when he started, having looked around nearly a year before.

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