Choosing a Primary School - do you prefer open days or evenings

(23 Posts)
SchoolQuery Wed 10-Jun-15 21:45:05

At our school we are reviewing what we do for potential Reception parents. Currently we have one open evening for parents only, where the head gives a talk and then there is a tour of the school. There is then the opportunity for parents to visit (with their child if they want) during the school day a week later.
I thought I would ask on here to see what parents actually prefer and also to see what other schools do.
Do you prefer an open evening,, a weekend open morning where you can take your child or a weekday open morning, so you can see the school in action. Do you like a formal event with a set timetable or a more informal event where you can drop in at anytime.
Is there anything you particularly want to hear about / don't want to hear about on a visit.
Any info you can give me will be much appreciated, thanks

Bunnyjo Wed 10-Jun-15 22:14:16

Personally, I would like to be able to call the school and visit at a mutually convenient time. I want to see the school in action and get a real feel for the school, and that isn't going to be achieved in a micromanaged open day.

In fact, we had to change schools for DD after allocations. We exchanged on our property in the middle of July and DD was due to start reception that September and our new house was a 20 minute drive away.

I contacted the local village school to ask if we could visit at any point (there were only 3 days left of the term). We were invited to come along right away if we wished, and we did. There was no time for the school to prepare, so we got to see exactly how the school operates and it was a delightful visit. We were taken into every class room and DD got to play in the school field with the other children at break time while DH and I sat with the HT to discuss any questions we had. From that one visit, we knew that school was the school we wanted DD to go to.

I don't care for very scheduled/organised events - it feels staged and somewhat fake. During the initial application process we discounted 2 schools which only offered open days in the evenings and no visits during the school day. To me, despite both schools being rated as OFSTED outstanding, it felt like they had something to hide.

SchoolQuery Wed 10-Jun-15 22:31:28

That's a good point Bunnyjo - and that's how we handle in year transfers (& anyone who cant make the open evening). Unfortunately as we normally have more than 60 families looking around for Reception places, we can't fit that many in on an ad-hoc basis, the head would never get anything else done.

AllPizzasGreatAndSmall Wed 10-Jun-15 22:41:55

Well our head does individual meetings and tours throughout the year, our intake is 90 and we are oversubscribed, obviously not every applicant visits and some are siblings.

Mopmay Wed 10-Jun-15 22:53:19

Our in take is 90 too. Head does a tour every weds am. Parents see a normal school day. Oversubscribed school. Depends on numbers etc

SchoolQuery Wed 10-Jun-15 22:59:18

That's a good idea, I can see it could work if we booked a session every week over the autumn term.

RandomMess Wed 10-Jun-15 23:00:02

Realistically how many children for whom yours isn't the nearest school are likely to get a place there?

If there is a shortage of reception places I would focus your energies on other things than going all out to "sell yourselves"

Where we lived most spaces went to siblings etc. and people from a few miles away who had no extenuating circumstances still wanted to come and view the school and got very offended when staff tried to explain that they were highly unlikely to get a place due to their address confused

PerspicaciaTick Wed 10-Jun-15 23:09:52

My priority is to see the school in action on a school day. To see how the children behave and how the staff interact with them.

I am happy to make an appointment for an open event if it means I get to go round the school when it is busy and active.

My DCs school does several open mornings (usually only an hour or so) over the course of a couple of weeks. The Y6's work in pairs to give groups of 2-4 parents a tour of the school. Then the parents meet the HT in a group setting, and they can chat and ask questions.

Springtimemama Wed 10-Jun-15 23:11:38

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

ErrolTheDragon Wed 10-Jun-15 23:20:44

The most important thing is the visit during a normal school day to see the reality.

For infant/primary, an informal open day on a weekend with the children welcome is best - evenings are too late to bring the child so would need babysitters. (It's different for secondaries, generally an evening with talk and tours works well for them.)

Pico2 Wed 10-Jun-15 23:34:14

My preference is a normal school day to see the school as it usually is. However we were shown around DD's school on a normal school day by a member of the office staff who struggled to answer my questions about how the school operates. I much prefer to be shown around by a classroom practitioner (teacher or TA) or the head teacher. But I completely understand if they are busy actually teaching.

Springtimemama Thu 11-Jun-15 07:10:58

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Magicalmrmistofeles Thu 11-Jun-15 07:13:31

Days and preferably drop in not en masse so ou see the school in action

hibbledibble Thu 11-Jun-15 08:16:45

I'm impressed that your school does open evenings/weekends.

When I was trying to view schools recently, all the schools would offer very limited viewing during, which was only during working hours (eg one tour a month). As a working parent this is impossible to attend. The assumption seems to be that parents in my area don't work.

Cedar03 Thu 11-Jun-15 11:40:22

I would prefer to see the school in action. It gives you a chance to see how the children behave/seem. Are they focused, enjoying themselves, learning. How do they fit in the classrooms? Is there enough space for children to move freely.

Any visit will have to be stage managed to some degree. The effort that is put into it tells you a lot. For example we visited one outstanding/oversubscribed school and the school secretary looked at us blankly when we arrived (so that we thought we'd actually arrived on the wrong day) and really did not seem interested in the whole thing. And that reflects how she treats parents and visitors to the school in general as friends whose children go there reported back on many occasions.

The school my daughter attends used 6 year children to greet parents, escort them to the hall and talk about why they liked the school. The headteacher provided a tour and presentation.

Another, heavily oversubscribed local school refuses to let people who live out of the catchment area visit on the basis that it will be wasting time.

Cedar03 Thu 11-Jun-15 11:42:48

As a working parent, the thing I needed the most is to know when the visits were taking place enough in advance to be able to book the time out from my work.
But not being told about things in advance is a general bugbear of mine. The school seems surprised that parents actually need to know something with more than 2 days notice!

SchoolQuery Thu 11-Jun-15 19:19:05

Thanks for the replies, its so useful to get other peoples view points.

Cedar03 - as office staff, we are constantly telling the rest of the school staff that parents need plenty of warning for all events & special dressing up days etc.

noramum Thu 11-Jun-15 19:58:49

Open morning without kids.

We had several open mornings and I found some "staged" some not. It really depends on the school I would say. We even sat through an assembly and looking back, it was a normal one, not extra for the parents or anything.

Evenings and weekends are staged for me as they don't show how the children interact with the teacher or head. We discounted one school as we felt the chemistry was far too bad, it felt like the children jumped to attention and were extra formal when the head came round, in others they had a respectful but friendly attitude. You can't see that without the children.

I think drop ins can be more confusing and disruptive for the children if tons of parents come along between October and January.

AllPizzasGreatAndSmall Thu 11-Jun-15 22:18:05

I think drop ins can be more confusing and disruptive for the children if tons of parents come along between October and January.

Our head only has one set of parents with her at any time, the visits happen year round and does not disrupt the children at all, depending what is happening they will just carry on or sometimes chat to her and the visitors.

I can't imagine why anyone would want to visit a primary school when it is 'closed' to pupils.

mrz Thu 11-Jun-15 22:20:46

As a parent I would want to see the school on a normal working day not when it's doing it's best to impress parents. As a teacher it's much less disruptive after school or weekends.

SchoolQuery Fri 12-Jun-15 19:02:42

Our reason for an open evening was that - working parents, would only want to take time off for schools that they were pretty sure they were interested in. I think our school, is one where it might not be the top of peoples list, but if they actually look around it, they would see how much we have to offer.
It does seem though that most people think seeing the school on a normal day is more important.

mrz Fri 12-Jun-15 19:13:28

I went to a number of open evenings when looking at schools for children but found the day to day reality of the ones they eventually attended was nothing like the shiny package presented.

Ionone Mon 15-Jun-15 21:47:34

I would definitely want to see the school on a normal working day. And I would expect a chance to talk to the headteacher at a minimum and maybe some of the children if available. This was all OK at the school we picked - the head was charming and helpful and friendly and the children delightful and full of fun (I really mean this, not being sarcastic or using this as a euphemism) which went a long way towards mitigating the slightly below par Ofsted report. In fact, we ended up choosing it over two schools with better Ofsteds because it was so patently a lovely place to be a child in. The kids we talked to were just in their normal lessons. They asked what we were doing, we told them, we had a conversation and we were really impressed by their obvious enjoyment of being at the school. Unfortunately, since then there has been a change of head and the school has improved its Ofsted but worsened the actual experience of being there!

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