Viewing schools(9 Posts)
We are starting to book appointments to view schools for ds. Do we all need to go (myself, DH and DS)? And what kinds of things do we look for?
If infants, I'd suggest not taking your DC, unless you have no childcare options, so that you can focus on the actual school.
Whether just you, just DH or both of you go doesn't necessarily matter, unless you foresee that you are likely to have very differing opinions! We found that logistically it wasn't practical for us both to go to see each school, so I went to everything and DH went when he could.
In terms of what you look for, I think this is very hard to articulate. And it partly depends on what sort of school you are looking for. It's worth thinking about what you expect a school to provide so that you can ask pertinent questions.
I'd be looking for lots of displays showing a wide range of abilities, teachers engaged with children (if visiting when children about), how much space there is. In terms of asking questions, this might relate to pastoral care, TA support, how they group children, homework expectations etc.
For primary school entry I would leave my child at home. We had to take DD to one school and I could see the difference, I was less able to concentrate as I found I had to make sure DD didn't venture off or decided to take part in the lesson.
DH and I went together to the schools we felt were the ones DD would realistically end up going, we had two very different ones DD would have been able to go to and we wanted both be sure we came to the same conclusion.
Looking out for things: how do the children act when teacher, esp. the head is around. We had everything from getting really quite and not looking up to a Y2 class running towards a head showing her the new display they just finished.
Displays: does it cover a decent amount of variations in ability or just the creme de la creme? Are there displays about the general school life, trips, events held in school?
Is the school offering lunch or after school clubs? Run by themselves or external providers? Do they have sports teams competing on local level between the schools?
Do they offer music tuition and if how does it work? Do they have music groups like a choir or orchestra?
How can you get information from the teacher? Are they open to make appointments with you outside parent evening?
How are they settling reception children in? Some do quite long stretches of short hours for 2-3 weeks, if you work you may need to think about cover.
Also, have a look at the school's website. At ours you would find information about KS 2 residentials, school trips in general, all clubs, the newsletters, a calendar with events and lots of pictures form various visitors to the school.
If the schools do firework displays or have Christmas fairs open to the public it is worth going. We go to two different ones, one is ours, one where good friends have their children and the difference in attitude is interesting. In ours you will find most of the teacher, happily helping and interacting with the children and speaking to parents while at our friend's school it is purely a PTA event and the head is only there because insurance says he must (or a representative from the school).
Thank you so much for all the advice. Excellent suggestions. Some of which I never thought about. It is for infant/ primary - they grow up so quickly 😭
The biggest thing which sold us on our current school (after I first went for the local option which was failing DD1 spectacularly) - the head showed us round and took an interest in what every single class of kids were doing, knew all the kids by name and got hugged by several on the way around the school!
Oh and reading the letters home section on the website is usually quite eye opening in terms of working out the tone of the school and how they view parents sometimes. Plus the choice of photos on there - our old school had nice shiny kids in front of nice shiny iPads... current school opens with a child with the muddiest hands imaginable and a massive grin on her face!
As others said, I would leave your ds at home (or wherever he is during the day). There will be time for settling in at the chosen school later, but for now, it's not really something he needs to see and be apart of as you'll be making the decision really yourselves.
What questions you ask really depends on what's important to you. What do you want in a school? Ask about that. When we went, it was mostly about just getting a feel for the school. You can pick up on whether it's a happy, friendly welcoming place or if it's sterile and impersonal and too pressured. We really just wanted a school that seemed welcoming and friendly and a nice place to be where children and staff seemed glad to be there.
The only other things I really cared about was what sort of learning and experiences they had that wasn't just rote, sit in a classroom and do phonics and maths. Being outside mattered and the school we chose had a lovely Forest School and really prioritised outdoor play. They also had a swimming pool and do swimming lessons for PE from reception up, so that was a bonus. It was also just really wholistic and not so much about test scores and such. I liked that. But really it just depends on what sorts of things matter to you.
Distance/commute may also be an issue, as might be afterschool clubs or breakfast clubs if you need to work around specific working hours for yourselves. That wasn't so much an issue for us as we both are self-employed and I'm about to go on mat leave, so we have a lot of flexibility in our hours, but I know it was an issue for many friends of ours.
Yes, the settling in sessions would be something I'd ask about too if it would be a deciding factor for you. The school we chose first had about 2 months of somewhat regular settling in sessions the summer term of the previous year. The other school that was our 2nd choice had almost none, just a come have your picture taken with the Easter bunny day in like April (?). It was really weird, but it just gave me a strange feeling. I liked that they provided a really extended and thoughtful period of settling in.
And then when school actually starts what do they do? Ours started right up, full days from day 1, which I much preferred. I have friends with children in other schools who only had them going 2 hours a day for like the first 3 weeks with pick up at like 11am each day. There's no way we could have worked our work schedules around that for 3 weeks. It would have personally been a real deterrent unless we absolutely loved the school.
I disagree with the PP - ask about settling in sessions and starting procedures for interest but IMO basing your choice of a school your child will be in until 7/9/11 on what happens in the first few weeks is a bit short sighted.
RedSky - it wouldn't be a deal breaker for me eihter but it is something worth knowing. We had to juggle around annual leave and also had to take more childcare costs into account as DD's school did nearly 4 weeks of short days.
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