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I'm off to visit a primary school for DD for 2010 intake this morning (I'm feeling v grown up!!). What questions would you recommend I ask the head teacher?

(47 Posts)
MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 09:23:46

So far I have:

Intake – how many on the list, catchment area, siblings etc
Settling in process
Class size
Fresh Air time (in lessons, what do they do outside)
Languages and other subjects covered?

Anything vital I have missed?

I shall also be looking around to see if the kids look happy and the teachers nice and the school is well kept and clean.

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 13-Oct-09 10:00:54

I'd add:
Extra curricular stuff.
Approach to those who are struggling in class or at the other end of the scale are ahead of average.
Not so sure about class size being an issue unless you're looking at private or a smaller rural school as most have 30 per class.

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 10:05:06

Thanks grammerpolice - not private or smaller rural one this time, although one I will be going to see is.

Good point about those struggling or excelling and how they handle that. I shall put that down and the extra curricular too.


PerryPlatypus Tue 13-Oct-09 10:07:37

After-school clubs?

Does the school have after-school activities and, if so, how much (if anything) do they cost?

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 10:08:36

PerryPlatypus - very good point about after-schools clubs and costs for out of school activities.


thegrammerpolicesic Tue 13-Oct-09 10:08:53

Oh and my number one question is what schools they go onto afterwards. If it's a lot of selective ask whether many of the kids get tutored or not. If they do the flashy list of destination schools might not be about the quality of teaching going on (not that it means it's bad).

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 10:11:17

grammerpolice - that's a really good question and one that I would never have thought of. Thank you again.

DadAtLarge Tue 13-Oct-09 10:38:34

Heads are good at PR and will reassure you that they are strict on bullying, that they "stretch" the more able pupils etc.

I'd ask for a copy of the school's policy on catering for able children, their policy on Gifted & Talented and the extent to which they implement the G&T program (both for academically gifted and otherwise talented). Many schools pay it just lip service. I'd also ask for similar information on SEN. I'd read their last OFSTED report,d note the areas they were weak in and look for evidence they are improving.

Some people believe you can tell a lot about a school by the number of parents volunteering to help in the classroom, raise funds for the PTA etc.

>>Intake – how many on the list, catchment area, siblings etc
Information like that is available elsewhere. I'd not bother the head with those questions.

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 10:53:52

DatAtLarge - I shall ask for those policies, thankyou. I'm already reading the Ofsted reporting and highlighting any areas of concern. Will also be on PR alert <whispers - am in the marketing industry so am quite good at sniffing out the bullshit>

Didn't know that about the parents helping out. I'll ask about/look out for that as well.

thegrammerpolicesic Tue 13-Oct-09 11:27:42

Oh and not a question for the head but something for you to think about: do the kids look like the kind of kids you'd want yours to hang out with/ turn into?

BuckRogers Tue 13-Oct-09 11:27:46

I'd ask about visits and visitors. These enrich the curriculum and are quite important IMO.
G&T policy is great but how do they show off the achievemnts of the child whose forte is not academic? It should be covered but isn't always done in practice. So, the excellent musician or athlete; do they get to go to all the inter school things and do their stuff? On that point, make sure you ask about interschool competitions.

Community links too. For some schools this begins and ends with handing out harvest baskets to the elderly. hmm If they are graded outstanding what do they do to share their good practice? Some schools (ours local state primary inc.) are very insular. Not a good thing IMO.

BuckRogers Tue 13-Oct-09 11:31:12

Wanted to add that IME, the worse schools for being insular are those little outstanding graded schools in affluent areas.

Rollergirl1 Tue 13-Oct-09 11:45:59

I have just done my round of visits. You might want to check from what point your DC will be full-time based on their birthday. The schools I visited differed vastly. One of them she would only go mornings only until the summer term and I just don't know how I could manage with that working too. Luckily it is not what one our preferred schools.

I think you will find that you get a definite vibe about a school when you are walking around. I visited a school that was classed as outstanding by Ofted but I was somewhat underwhelmed with the visit and much preferred another one. I think gut instinct will play a big part.

doubleexpresso Tue 13-Oct-09 11:56:21

We once looked around a school and the Head did not speak to any children at all, even though there were plenty of opportunities for her to do so. This really put mt off. Agree with BuckRogers. Ask about what fun activities they do and if the Head looks shocked don't send your DC there!

abear Tue 13-Oct-09 12:06:44

As a mother of a child in Y3 I wish I had asked about the school's attitude to sport. In DS school they are already being selected for A & B teams in sport and a small handfull are left out which is damaging to those less able & already turning them against sport and making them lose confidence in other areas. It is so hard to know what is going to be important as your child grows up and I think I was too focused on looking at what happens in just the first two or three years and assumed if that was good, what happened further up the school would be OK too.

angelene Tue 13-Oct-09 12:14:17

When I went to see the school that DD will go to (we have only one option for various reasons - but it's a good school) I was really impressed that the head seemed to know all the children's names, and that there was a quiet and happy atmosphere in the school.

I also wondered what to ask about and didn't really know what to expect, but it became very easy as we looked round the school and chatted.

I think I also asked about peripatetic (sp?) music teachers, catering and outdoor activities (e.g. the veg garden they have started)

snice Tue 13-Oct-09 12:19:36

As you walk round does the head interact with children/generally know their names?

Do the classrooms have a feel of quiet enjoyment and industry or just crowd control?

Is there a school council,choir,orchestra?

Try and time a visit to co-incide with playtime -as you walk through the playground aare the majority of children running around looking happy, are the different age groups playing together, do they have a buddy system?

scrappydappydoo Tue 13-Oct-09 12:24:09

I've just been doing the rounds as well....
Watch the head and the teachers carefully - how they react to children is important - its sets the atmosphere. We went to one school last term and got shown around by the old head who barely acknowledged any child and went back to the same school a couple of weeks ago and the new head was chatting with every child - could really see difference.

I also asked about homework, what they expect your child to be able to do when they start (one school which went off my list said that they expected each reception child to be able to read and write their own name, know all the phonic sounds and do basic arithmetic - this was BEFORE they started reception - and no I didn't misunderstand and it wasn't private)

Madsometimes Tue 13-Oct-09 12:48:49

Their feeder nurseries must be impressive!

JustChancesAndChoices Tue 13-Oct-09 12:57:03

OMG! What a thread!I can't believe what I am reading!

Do you really think that the school/head have time to answer all your pedantic questions?

Just look at the OFSTED report, take it with a pinch of salt as no assessment system is flawless but it does give you a basis on which to make a judgement. Everything else should be in the prospectus or in the annual report to parents which is available on request if they don't give you one with the prospectus.

Then on the day look out for happy children & happy staff - how do adults & children relate to one another? Our head is not a "people person" and doesnt always come across too well, so don't let your view of one person cloud your judgement of the rest of the staff.

If you need to ask anything, ask things that would relate to you & your child like an afterschool/breakfast club if you would use it or certain after-school activities that you know your child would enjoy doing. Also do the children start full time or is it "staggered entry"?

& Don't go asking for SEN & G&T policies unless you suspect your child is one or the other!

zipzap Tue 13-Oct-09 12:57:54

Find out what time the school day is - ds1's finishes at 3pm which means that you have to start thinking about getting him about 2.30pm which gives you no afternoon time at all to do anything. some primary schools around here are open until 3.15 or 3.30 which is a bit better.

Am I the only one that naively thought the school day was from 9-4 like it was when I was at school?

Also, lots of the schools I looked at talked about child initiated play learning for reception, you will know how well your child will take to this and if you want to know more about how they are supported to learn whilst doing this rather than just being left to their own devices. And how the transition to 'real' schooling is managed for the next year.

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 13:07:14

Hello everyone, thanks for your replies and questions to think about and ask.

JustChances - don't worry, I'm not going to sit and grill the head teacher to death, as angelene did I am expecting a lot to come out when we are chatting on our way round the school. I will also be taking a lot on what it 'feels' like at the school as well. I started the thread as I was wondering what other parents had looked at and asked so I could think about asking certain things if they seemed relevant. Also to see if there is anything vital that I had missed that I really should consider (your note on staggered entry being one of those).

DadAtLarge Tue 13-Oct-09 13:50:32

>>& Don't go asking for SEN & G&T policies unless you suspect your child is one or the other!

About half (or more) children are one or the other.

>>G&T policy is great but how do they show off the achievemnts of the child whose forte is not academic?

The "Talented" in G&T is for those who are top in non-academic fields.

MyCatsAScarierBastar..., have you considered the possibility that the head won't be walking around the school with you? We were shown around by a Y6 pupil and got to speak with the head at the end of the visit.

JustChancesAndChoice, for the next seven years I'm trusting these people with what I value more than anything else. If the school/head can't be bothered answering my questions that would be one big red flashing light.

MyCatsAScarierBastardThanYours Tue 13-Oct-09 14:03:27

DatAtLarge - at the school I am seeing in 30 mins it is the head that is showing us around (apparantly he likes to make a point of showing indivdual parents around - hard work for him I would think over the next few months, but great for us - although I may well find he has delegated us to a Y6 pupil).

Thanks also for the info on G&T.

wheresmymillionaire Tue 13-Oct-09 14:28:09

If it's a small school where they have to split year groups - ask how they make that split. Age or ability??? And how they manage the different levels within the class.

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