What to ask at an open day?(8 Posts)
So we live in an area where there isn't really much choice - one state school with good reputation (there are other state schools but they're over 10 miles away and we wouldn't get in because of catchment) or private which are all selective and we can't afford anyway. So it's just the one then... we have the yr 5 open day coming up and was wondering what questions to ask, what to look for bearing in mind that we don't have a choice.
I think I would be thinking about the setting policy, options at post-16, where do students go after leaving the school, availability of lockers, staff turnover, size of classes, lunchtime options, after school activities eg music and sport. Also what is the provision for technology, what happens if a child is ill, what are the library facilities, what is the school's plan for moving forward?
One thing- see if you can see the students' toilets. You can tell a lot about a school by the state of the loos. Clean, with plenty of soap, toilet paper and paper towels/dryers? If yes then go for it. In my experience nice loos mean a well run school.
You may have more choice than you think; often kids here get into the out of catchment schools. What to ask depends what would matter to your child, what they would like to know about their future experience, which is usually more about "Where do I spend lunchtime on wet days, will I see my friends?" rather than "how many GCSEs scheduled when." Definitely make it about practical matters (strategy now & attitude towards what strategy) because things like setting strategy could easily change completely in 2-3 yrs time. Some ideas:
How do they handle bullying?
How do they communicate with parents? Parent portal, Facebook, text, email? Do you parents have emails for teacher (I love this, though I imagine poor teachers shouldn't). What about form tutor emails?
Are there any plans to change uniform soon? Ask other parents how strict the uniform policy is, though. Huge HooHaw at DS school about uniform policy right now.
The organisation of the open evening seems to reflect organisation of the school, in my experience. Especially, how well are the kids organised as helpers.
What opportunities are there for kids to take part in school life? They should mention sports, helping at open eve or parents eve or induction eve, school play productions, school council, inter school competitions?
my favourite question to ask pupils is
"if you could change only one thing about the school, what would it be?"
Friend swears by asking the kids "What career do you want to go onto?" If > 1 says hairdresser, it's not the level of aspiration school she wants!
I found the attitude of the staff the most revealing. In two of the schools were visited, the teachers were just stood around chatting to eachother and made no attempt to come and engage with us - we had to actually excuse ourselves into their conversations to talk with them. In another school, it was the exact opposite, the teachers had set up separate tables with activities on and virtually pounced on our son as soon as we walked in - we later found out it was the head of maths who sat down with DS and did a maths related board game with him for about 20 minutes! Our son just loved the school because of how friendly the teachers were and obviously that's the one he chose and he's never looked back.
These would be my decision making questions:
- When do you set or stream
- What choice is there for MFLs
- How do you currently run double & triple science at GCSE
- What changes are you making with respect to the new GCSEs
- What option choices are there for less academic pupils
- What is the level of homework
Pastoral / Behaviour /Rewards
- Are there any issues with anorexia / self harming / pregnancy and how do you deal with them
- How is pastoral support organised
- How is bullying dealt with
- What is the reward system
- What are detentions given for
(I don't care about sport or music so have no decision making questions based on that kind of thing).
I would also notice
- confidence and turn out of the pupils (do I want mine like that)
- do staff engage with my child
- toilets (as stated by PP)
- state of wall displays in classrooms
Thanks all very helpful! I know we could go further afield but it would be a long commute to find a school with spaces so I would have to be very sure about not sending DD local.
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