Advanced search

questions to ask looking round secondary school

(13 Posts)
ifIonlyknew Wed 07-Mar-18 11:18:37

we are looking at secondary schools for applying later this year (entry sep 2019). Just looking at two local state schools, should be able to get into either, one is a Church school we meet criteria for, the other is our local one, same distance from each.

Just wondering what questions to ask/things to look for/check out when we look round one in a few days time. any suggestions?

OP’s posts: |
Seeline Wed 07-Mar-18 11:29:01

What subjects are on the curriculum
When students have to start dropping subjects
How many subjects for GCSE and what choice students have (actual choice rather than subject blocks etc)
Whether/when students are put in sets/streamed and when; whether it is possible to move between sets once placed.
What are facilities like - eg science labs, drama facilities, sports pitches/gym, music room, language labs, IT etc
Homework expectations
What extra-curricular activities are available
What sports are available
Anything specific to your child's interest/abilities/needs
Sixth form options

TeenTimesTwo Wed 07-Mar-18 11:31:14

Key to us was pastoral care so we found out about that. How is it organised and staffed. How accessible are they.
We asked about incidences of anorexia and how it was dealt with, if asking now I would ask about self harm.

I would ask about homework policy, but then also ask current pupils because what a school says it does for homework may not actually reflect current practice.

I would ask what gets set and when. I would hope not to hear about streaming on entry to year 7. I would ask how frequently sets are reviewed and how much movement there tends to be. I would ask how they ensure every pupil is encouraged to do the best they can.

I would ask who gets to do triple science and how it is run. (e.g. some schools mandate, some only do accelerated, some only let top 60 pupils or whatever).

I would ask to see the options form for the current y9s (or y8s if they do a 3 year GCSE) to see what flexibility of options they are given.

I don't care about sport, but if I did I would ask how team selection is done and do they run B teams as well as A teams.

I don't care about music but if I did I would ask about orchestras, choirs, windbands etc.

I wouldn't ask but I would notice how pupils move around the school, do they stand back for visitors, is their uniform reasonably neat but not OTT. Are they happy.

I wouldn't ask bit I would notice quality of work on walls. If it is all brilliant does that mean they under value lower achieving pupils.

Our HT says you can tell a lot about a school by the state of the toilets.

TeenTimesTwo Wed 07-Mar-18 11:32:42

Seeline and I seem pretty agreed.

ifIonlyknew Wed 07-Mar-18 11:33:35

thank you. I think it is made harder by the fact we would be as happy with one school as the other, for us it is trying to find out which one will suit her best. hadn't thought about when they would have to start dropping subjects/choosing GCSEs etc. Need to check out SEN support as well.

OP’s posts: |
ifIonlyknew Wed 07-Mar-18 11:38:17

ha love the toilet one - so true! DD was put off one school when she discovered the toilets were mixed sex!

Yes pastorial support is a huge concern. we have ruled out the grammar because of extra pressures and the reports I have heard from a few families where they have had to pull their girls out because of self harming and eating disorders as well as one having a breakdown. DD is very clever but has some minor splds which do hold her back a bit so that is important to us to check but she is also very self conscious of it as her intellectual ability is much higher than she can sometimes be able to communicate but she doesn't like people knowing. It is important to us it is her choice of school not us telling her unless we notice something of particular concern to us.

thank you - some good points to add to my list. We have looked round open evenings at both but now looking round one during the day more seriously so we will be able to see behaviour in general more.

OP’s posts: |
TeenTimesTwo Wed 07-Mar-18 11:42:06

There are 2 very good fully comp schools in our town, both with a different ethos. ( @TalkinPeace will confirm.)

One is imo trying to emulate grammars, very particular about uniform, lots of homework, talks a lot about results, pushy. The other is more relaxed, less homework, uniform worn more casually.

Both get very good results, and differences I suspect are more to do with intake than teaching. It is a great choice.

ifIonlyknew Wed 07-Mar-18 11:57:09

inresting their results are similar. one of ours does get slightly better results although the other one is improving each year. I am kind of of the opinion (perhaps naively) that if a child is going to work then they will work and if they aren't then they aren't and that a school is only as good as the teacher you get when you are there so unless results are terrible I am not hugely swayed by them alone.

OP’s posts: |
Soursprout Wed 07-Mar-18 13:09:23

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Trampire Wed 07-Mar-18 13:22:36

Well if you go on the measure of the toilets at my dd's school you'd have thought it was the worst school in the UK! I wouldn't use that as a measure of anything.
Dd is at a great Secondary comp that has good results. An old school, old building and year after year given zero money for building work/renovations. No brand new shiny building here!

I went a lot on gut. I knew I wanted a creative and friendly environment for my dd (and now my ds who's starting in Sept)

I looked at the drama and music closely. Made you I noticed all the photographs on the walls of recent productions across the board.

I love a library and found that the schools library was a warm, well used place that had a welcoming atmosphere and nice decor (other newer schools I'd visited seemed to have a library in a fairly sterile room with not much atmosphere)

Asked about in-school clubs (dd's school has 101 from chess to Choir to Lego to looking after school chickens to rock climbing!)

Spoke to older pupils and sixth formers to see how they spoke about their school (and if they were pleasant pupils who were fairly confident and enthusiastic).

All that and checking out language provision, setting etc ....all lead to feeling "yeah. We like it here"

Kazzyhoward Wed 07-Mar-18 13:28:38

How engaging were the teachers at the open evenings? At a few of the ones we viewed, we were quite shocked at how stand-off-ish the teachers were with prospective parents/pupils and current pupils - in some, the teachers just stood around in huddles talking to eachother and barely acknowledging us as we walked around, making us feel as if we were interupting them if we asked questions, which were curtly answered.

At a couple of other schools, the teachers couldn't have been more engaging, almost pouncing on us as soon as we walked into a room, telling us all about their dept, talking to my son - making him feel really at home - they were also friendly with existing pupils too.

It was one of the latter we chose, and how right we were. My son has found the teachers to be really approachable (in general, obviously some aren't) which has been very important. The pastoral care has turned out to be exceptional with any problems sorted almost straight away. He tells us most teachers are really friendly and chatty, in and out of the classrooms.

BrendansDanceShoes Wed 07-Mar-18 14:03:03

If you can visit on a school day, see if your tour guide lets you see class changeover in progress, or if you are swiftly ushered out of the way ' because it's changeover. You can gain a lot of ideas about behaviour then. Also look at how engaged kids are in class, whether higher set classes are larger in size, how keen teachers are to see you. Are all the kids in smart uniform, or just the ones handpicked to take you round. At one school, I was told, we don't want to tire you out, so we won't take you up the stairs to the first floor!!!! I insisted, I was curious as to what they were hiding!

ifIonlyknew Thu 08-Mar-18 13:49:30

thank you. yes interestingly out of the two we looked round (and will be revisiting), one had a really good welcoming atmosphere at the open evening and the other erm didn't. Some teachers were great but others ignored us even when we were the only ones in the room. I wasn't impressed. wouldnt have thought about trying to see a lesson changeover. actually the guided tour times do go over a time with a lesson changeover looking at the timetable on the website so unless everyone has a double lesson at that time hopefully we will see that.

thanks everyone

OP’s posts: |

Join the discussion

To comment on this thread you need to create a Mumsnet account.

Join Mumsnet

Already have a Mumsnet account? Log in