What to look for during primary school visits(11 Posts)
Could you share what are some of the key things you are looking for when you visit primary schools? I am clueless...
A feel - look at how staff interact with the children, with the head etc. Do children seem happy? Look out for behaviour etc. Do they seem to have the resources they need? How do the children react to the head?
I'd say the biggest thing is a general feel.
If the visit doesn't include a talk by or Q&A with the head teacher, walk away - If the leader of the school doesn't think it's worth investing time into attracting the next cohort of pupils then there is something wrong.
If the visit doesn't include some opportunity to talk with pupils, they have something to hide.
Ask how bullying is dealt with. If they say there is no bullying that means bullying is happening and not being dealt with.
Find out what changes have been made to address the shortcomings highlighted in the last ofsted report.
Our Ofsted report says there is no evidence of bullying at our school despite the Ofsted inspector asking for parental opinions and me telling her that my dd had been physically assaulted. Go with your gut feeling.
There is a difference between attending an open evening as opposed to a private visit. On an open evening there may not be children around but you will get a talk from the head and be able to see the classrooms. On a working day visit, you will be able to drill down and ask more pertinent questions. You must be aware though, that Heads are extremely busy and some teach. They are never going to be available to meet and greet 60 parents who want to do separate visits. Often the school secretary will do a tour.
You can look at how the teachers engage with the children. Are they learning? What are they doing? Is it play based education and how does the school structure it's more formal learning in subsequent years? Is this what you want? Are the children busy and are they happy? Are the classrooms inspiring? Is it a place where children enjoy learning? Would you like to be a child in that school? Would it inspire you? Is the curriculum exciting?
I would rather avoid asking Ofsted questions. Schools can put their faults right but then fail to notice other things going wrong. You are unlikely to spot that. However, do read any recent ofsted report and ask to see a synopsis of the development plan showing how they will tackle any issues. If the school was rated inadequate, be aware there is no quick fix.
Also, do not assume children bully each other. Mostly they do not. Most children enjoy school. You are unlikely to know what a school does regarding bullying until there is an incident. You will need to have faith in the head. Do they fill you with confidence? Look at the progress the children make. Education is not totally results driven, it is progress driven.
Lastly, can you see your child at the school. Will they fit in? Do the children seem like yours? You might also look at the reading scheme, library, how they teach maths etc.... but how long have you got?
The most important thing was me when o viewed schools was the overall feel.
Is it a happy caring school, with engaged children?
When I saw the school we ended up choosing I just knew it was right, it ticked all the boxes of what I was looking for for my dd. You know your dc, and know what would suit them. Perhaps do a list of what is important to them: eg good play facilities, big classrooms, good sen support, in order to help you organise your thoughts.
Do the facilities look adequate for the number of pupils? Are classrooms big enough? What about sports facilities? Where do they eat - is the food cooked on the premises or bought in (in small schools)? Have a look at the classroom displays - do they have pupils' work up on display? Do they have a well equipped IT room?
Do they study languages / music / something of particular interest to you / your DC? What after school clubs are available? How much / little religious input is there in assemblies?
Is parking available nearby if you have to drive to school? Or is there a 'walking bus?' ( escorted walking group) from your area?
Do children have a daily choice between hot dinner and packed lunch, if this is important to you, or do you have to commit to either one or the other for the week / term?
If you're visiting in school time, do the children look presentable? Are they generally polite and well behaved? Can you imagine your child fitting in there?
You can get a lot of the above info from the prospectus or the web site.
I used to work at a school where a few year 5 or 6 children would give the tours for people visiting during the school day (and I got one when I interviewed). I liked it because it showed they trusted the children to show off the school to its best advantage.
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