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Viewing a school tonight

(108 Posts)
Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 12:35:16

What do i look out for so I don't fall for any nonsense.

admission Wed 27-Sep-17 12:50:02

I would not be fooled by the talk by the head teacher/ principal. You need to assume it will be a slick presentation presenting the school in the very best light. If it is not then that to me is a small red flag as to how good the school senior management is and how little emphasis they are putting on the presentation. Are they just super arrogant they will have a full school in the future
If the head / principal is making comments along the line you must put this school down as first preference or you will not get in, then that is a big red flag. Firstly because that is just not correct, you can get in, the school being your 2nd or lower preference and secondly for the shear arrogance of what they are saying.
I would be much more impressed if pupils at the school are showing people around. That says to me that the school have the confidence in their pupils to be their spokesperson.
I am a governor at a large secondary school which is over-subscribed because of parent's views on the excellence of the pastoral support and I cannot under-estimate the importance of this when things go wrong for a pupil at any school.
We have recently just moved into a new building and a concern for me is the number of parents that are basing decisions on a swish new building when it is what is behind the new facilities that matters.

RedSkyAtNight Wed 27-Sep-17 12:50:40

Walking round the school will give you an idea of how big the school is, how it organized, how the space is used, what resources are available and an idea of the atmosphere.

Other than that you need to go in with focused questions about academic/pastoral/extra curricular activities depending on what you are interested in.

If you're shown around by a student, they are also pretty good on "telling it like it is!"

Theworldisfullofidiots Wed 27-Sep-17 12:54:05

Talk to the kids!
Other thing is what the school looks like to a certain extent. You could see that a local secondary school was struggling because of the way it looked. It was less the tired buildings (get lack of money) but more it didn't seem to care how dirty it was (chewing gum on carpets, loo roll across the floor etc)

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 12:54:36


Ignore suits, buzzwords and preference bull shit

Students showing round is good.

I want to know about sporting facilities/teams/activities

TansyVioletta Wed 27-Sep-17 12:55:49

When dd2 and i were doing a tour of dd1's school at the open eve i heard a parent say to a teacher that their (pupil) guide was being VERY honest. Would love to know what he was saying! grin

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 12:57:17


TansyVioletta Wed 27-Sep-17 12:57:51

At dd's school all year 8 and 9s are expected to be guides at the open evening. Parents have to write to the head of year if they aren't able to, so they don't handpick kids they think will create a good impression

wineusuallyhelps Wed 27-Sep-17 12:57:59

Instinct is key in my experience. If your gut says no, then listen to it.

If they are happy to let students show you round and talk to you, that speaks volumes.

If the staff proactively approach you for a chat and seem enthusiastic, it’s a good sign. I’ve been to open evenings where they’ve been stood around looking fed up and not approachable - could be a sign of low staff morale.

Having amazing cooking to taste and whizz-pop-bang in the science lab does not necessarily equal a great school. See if the students doing the practical demos are actually engaging.

Agree that the head’s talk is not the be-all and end-all. I once went to one where the head had a stammer and was therefore nervous, but it didn’t mean he or the school was bad. Conversely, a “slick” talker doesn’t mean it’s all fabulous.

Try to look for what they’re not overtly showing you!

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 12:59:43

This is great thanks!!!

I don't want to fall for some kind of show
I will be looking out for chewing gum and the likes wink

Seeline Wed 27-Sep-17 13:01:34

Watch and see how the staff interact with the kids and how the children respond.
If staff know names, and eg whether child has been unwell, done well in a competition etc it shows that they have an interest in the children. If the children are happy chatting to the teachers it shows that they are liked and respected.

Definitely talk to the children - they are very honest!!

TansyVioletta Wed 27-Sep-17 13:02:05

I agree with you about the Head's talk wine

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 13:03:18


What's the buzzword bingo card then?

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 13:04:21

How would I spot an "unhappy" student "faking it"

BertrandRussell Wed 27-Sep-17 13:10:03

If you're shown round by a pupil, ask what their favourite and least favourite thing about the school is. Ask them if they had a little brother or sister would that line them to come to the school.

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 13:11:06

Good idea!!! Thanks
I wouldn't have thought of asking about the least favourite thing.

BertrandRussell Wed 27-Sep-17 13:11:32

Ask the Head about bullying. If they say there isn't any, they are lying, and might well be lying about other things.

TeenTimesTwo Wed 27-Sep-17 13:12:30

Look at displays if they have them, is it all brilliant set 1 work or are other pupils work displayed too.

HT speeches can be interesting for what they don't say. The other secondary in our town was very quiet on mentions of supporting children who struggle...

Ask pupils about how strict the school is on uniform and how much homework they really get. Also ask them about behaviour, and who they would turn to if they had a problem.

BertrandRussell Wed 27-Sep-17 13:13:04

Ask about extra curricular things. Whether they play matches against other schools.

BubblesBuddy Wed 27-Sep-17 13:14:29

The unhappy student would not have volunteered for an evening open in the first place. They just won't be there. So no spotting possible I'm afraid! Also if it is a night event, some parents would not be able to get their children there and other students may need to do homework! Just speak to who is there and look for enthusiasm and and easy rapport between teachers and students. In a busy evening you cannot forensically look at everything.

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 13:18:30


Funnily enough they fairly recently had a uniform amendment that anyone who knows me on MN already knows my opinion on that wink

Homework yes that's a good question. What I'm also hoping for is a good choice of sports for the girls.

Will hopefully get to ask about the bullying if the talk doesn't cover it.

Thingsiseeinmybathroom Wed 27-Sep-17 13:19:38

For us, the confidence of the kids showing us round told us everything we needed to know.

In the larger more 'standard' comp, the kids selected were obviously the well behaved ones, but that meant they were also quite timid and hard to pull information out of.
The smaller school which thankfully my DD got into, the kids were all confident, spoke highly of the school, the laid back environment and the strong structured learning approach won the day!

Gileswithachainsaw Wed 27-Sep-17 13:37:13

I have another viewing next week too. These tips are amazingly helpful. Neither of these schools are the one I want but they are the likely ones we will be allocated so really hoping they put my mind at rest a bit as it's a big worry

TansyVioletta Wed 27-Sep-17 14:04:39

What's the uniform amendment that you don't like? I think I've seen you post about schools that make kids wear a blazer in 30 degree heat so you could ask about that. (All the schools where i live have a blazer but none make kids wear it when it's too hot as far as i know.)

TansyVioletta Wed 27-Sep-17 14:11:56

I think i checked whether they offered triple science and further maths as I'd seen it mentioned on here.

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