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School Open Evening - does this issue matter?

(20 Posts)
paulapantsdown Fri 21-Sep-12 09:19:30

So, doing the rounds of open evenings, and went to see local Catholic School last night. The school has excellent results and is over subscribed. There were two things which did not compare well to the other school we are hoping for, but I need some perspective on whether they are important or not please :

- the classrooms walls were nearly bare. Hardly any educational posters, artwork, pupils work etc
- we were taken through a route behind the main school by the pupil showing us around, to get to the D&T dept. He told us that this area was where the Y7 hung out and ate lunch. The area was FULL of litter. Not just a days worth, but weeks and weeks worth of crisp packets and drink cartons everywhere. There was a lidded skip nearby, which was overflowing with black sacks.

This school has an excellent reputation, but it worries me that if they can't be arsed to have the place spotless/beautiful for open evening, then what will it be like the rest of the time, but - does this even matter?

longingforsomesleep Fri 21-Sep-12 09:35:26

Both issues would worry me considerably. The only school I've ever seen where walls weren't covered with students' work etc was a pfi school where apparently they had to apply for permission to put a nail in the wall....

As to the litter. Sounds terrible. At my boys' school litter picking is a punishment for misbehaviour and the school council is always looking at ways of reducing it.

I'd avoid the school if it was me.

Yes. that would put me off too.

A school that takes pride in pupils work and displays it. I've never seen otherwise.

And teaching pupils its ok to leave litter? ok, so your guide probably took you a back route the school didnt think you would see, but still.

cricketballs Fri 21-Sep-12 09:46:51

regarding classroom displays - has the school recently had building work done/redecorating etc? I only ask as following re-fits recently there are several classrooms at my school with no work on display as we are still waiting for display boards to be put up.

In terms of the litter it is very surprising as every school I have worked at always ensures that it is very tidy (the only time!) even those that are very over subscribed. I know a friend of mine actually turned around and left when visiting a school for her DD when they entered the building and saw graffiti on the wall in reception that hadn't been removed

steppemum Fri 21-Sep-12 10:11:31

we have been doing the rounds of schools too, and they go to enormous lengths to show off the school. Maybe this school thought they don't need to because school is oversubscribed, which doesn't sound like they care much about parents and their view.

Both would bother me. might be the deciding factor actually, depends on what other options you have.

We have been to one school with amazing results, great reputation, school looked great, lots of activities etc. Thing is the kids taking us round didn't talk to us, none of the kids I met actually spoke to me, the staff didn't voluntarily talk to us (so when we went into design room, she didn't say ' welcome this is design this is where we do x, please look round' she just stood and watched.
We finally found a couple of teachers who helpfully answered all our questions.
We had to leave early and on the way out down an empty corridor, we passed the head. He didn't say 'goodbye thank you for coming,' or anything, he ignored us.
Don't care how good the results are and what a great reputation it has, my ds won't be going there. But we do have another option with equally good results, where the students were charming and polite and proud of their school.

TheOriginalSteamingNit Fri 21-Sep-12 10:13:34

Yes, I would be put off by both those things. If they don't bother to pick up litter for an event like this, they sound either complacent or a bit crap.

DeWe Fri 21-Sep-12 10:16:27

The walls wouldn't worry me so much. When I was at school we used to have this mad dash to get stuff on the walls for open evening. Stuff was always cleared at the end of the year, and I wouldn't worry that they'd decided to continue teaching rather than getting stuff up on the walls.

The litter would. My dp decided our primary school on mostly loads of litter at the other school. it was the right choice.

paulapantsdown Fri 21-Sep-12 10:36:57

That's for the input. This has really got me thinking though. My kids primary is a really good one, with great teachers, but the caretaker is really lazy, and gets away with murder by the head. The school is quiet scruffy a lot of the time, and this drives me nuts, as the teachers make such an effort with their classrooms, and the kids always look neat and tidy. So that's just him, but it also shows a weakness in the head I think for not noticing it, or not taking the complaints parents make about it seriously.

I have however been looking more closely at the results tables and comparing them to the beautiful, neat, colourful school, and scruffy school is way ahead.

Still not sure what to think.

Madmog Fri 21-Sep-12 10:43:11

We looked around two schools. The first was really well prepared, pupils and staff were ready by entrance to welcome us and pupils clearly new what they had to do with tasks for the newcomers, every classroom was open, lots of student work around and posters. Talking to the staff they were clearly proud of what the children achieved and we were taken to Y7 work on the walls and charts with information. Although, staff were talking to parents my daughter had four teachers work with her individually and had a great time.

The second school we looked at was totally different. We stood in the corridor not knowing where to go and got left to it, there was little in the way of posters, childrens work around, and the two classes which actually prepared tasks for newcombers to take part in, clearly hadn't prepared their children as they didn't know what to do or how to solve things. Many of the classroom lights were off (great from an energy point of view) but it looked rather dark and dingy at 8pm.

I would say go with your gut feeling. Most schools will want to be well prepared for parents evening and give the impression what theirs in a good school and pupils will be happy there.

We went with our gut feeling, the first school. My daughter is getting good comments about her work, but even her best friend who is below average in everything is getting some positive feedback, which has made her really happy and has encouraged her to work harder - which in the long run has to be a good thing for her.

steppemum Fri 21-Sep-12 10:45:29

our primary is scruffy because it has old buildings etc, I chose it over the bright modern one down the road because of the results and the atmosphere.

still think that whether this is a deal breaker really depends on what else is available. If this is out and away the best on offer, you just have to go for it. You can always give them open day feedback and see if it makes any difference next year!

look past these 2 things and reflect on the conversation you had with teachers and students etc.

mummytime Fri 21-Sep-12 10:55:53

Okay remember results are from pupils who started the school at least 5 years ago. So I would want to know: has either school got a new head (in up to the last 7 years). Maybe try to lurk at end time to see what the pupils are like. Phone and ask why no work is on display. Also ensure the results are from an independent source eg. BBC or DFES, not the school's own reporting which can be massaged.

crazymum53 Fri 21-Sep-12 11:15:31

The lack of displays on the walls would not concern me - it is still very early in the school year and possibly there has not been time for new ones to go up. Also there may have been decoration work done over the Summer.

The litter problem would bother me but I would try to find out more about why this has occurred before passing judgement and crossing the school off my list. It could be that the school is having problems due to a caretaker being off sick or external contractors not fulfilling their contract and taking rubbish away. You could try contacting the school and making a comment about it and seeing how they respond. that would give you a good idea as to how the school really deals with comments from parents and the community.

choccyp1g Fri 21-Sep-12 17:07:36

I wouldn't just blame the caretaker for litter. It's the children who are throwing it, and the staff who are letting them do so.
Around here (Surrey) I found that the schools with the "best" results in terms of SATS scores and GCSE tend not to put on such a good show on the open nights. Anecdotally*, one head's speech more or less consisted of "our results speak for themselves and don't bother applying unless you are a baptised churchgoing Catholic"

*because we aren't even reigious I didn't bother looking round that one.

choccyp1g Fri 21-Sep-12 17:08:04

or reli*g*ious

choccyp1g Fri 21-Sep-12 17:08:29

or capable of a simple bit of highlighting.

MrsHoarder Fri 21-Sep-12 17:17:23

Also, results can be massaged. Pupils who could do brilliantly or those who don't stand a chance of adding to the stats can be ignored to get the borderline getting 5 A*-C. Some schools even push out pupils who aren't going to meet the standard. So if you're not getting a positive feel for the school, consider whether it might do that.

mummytime Fri 21-Sep-12 22:00:37

Choccyp1g guessing which school you mean, that message is totally truthful, they used to take some local kids but haven't for years.

Knowsabitabouteducation Fri 21-Sep-12 22:14:47

The litter would bother me. It would almost definitely be a show-stopper.

As for display work, it can be very contrived. Display work in corridors should be children's work. The problem is in getting good quality display. You have to use valuable class time, often a whole week's worth. Homework is no good as it comes back folded or crumpled. It is pretty difficult to have current display work two weeks into term.

You can get away with using commercial posters in a classroom, as teaching aids, eg maps, periodic table, etc.

I'd keep an open mind about the lack of display. I imagine it is a shock to a parent on their first encounter with secondary schools after the vibrant displays in primary.

bossboggle Mon 24-Sep-12 09:43:36

Yes I would be careful too. If they can't be bothered to showcase their school on what should be a show night then what are they like the rest of the year?? Still you have to go with how you feel about things. Good luck.

annh Mon 24-Sep-12 10:03:18

Ooh, choccyp1g I think I might know that school too! Is it in a town beginning with W? Or are there more of them around?!

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