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Making the most of open days

May and June (alongside September/October) see the majority of private day and boarding schools welcome prospective parents and students to inspect and probe what they have to offer.

Here are our top 5 tips for making the most of private schools’ open days.

  1. BE PREPARED

Attending an open day can take time and effort, so it is essential you make the most of it. You need to make sure you have done your research in advance. You can find more detail in our eGuides on How to Choose a Private School, identifying your preferences and priorities before a visit will be well worth the effort.

Consider:

  • Admissions requirements – academic and timelines
  • Curriculum, academic results, university progression
  • Ethos and approach to discipline
  • Boarding provision
  • Areas of special interest to your child (sport, art, drama, music, science, etc.)
  • What kind of experience do you want your child to have
  • What questions you need clarified

If you are not sure whether you are thinking along the right lines, please give us a call to tell us about your child and your aspirations for their schooling.

  1. HEAD’S UP

You will undoubtedly hear from the Head, and the character and vision of the Head defines most schools. Did you like the Head? Did you feel you received pertinent and informed answers to any questions? What are his/her principles, policies and personal philosophy on what he/she wishes to achieve at the school? How do the pupils and staff act around the Head?

The Head is the leader and inspiration for the school, staff and students. Choose your Head wisely.

  1. GRILL THE GUIDE

Your guide will more often than not be a specially-selected pupil. They will provide a good example of what attributes a school likes to develop in its students. Is the student personable and confident? Don’t be afraid to ask them questions about themselves and the school. What are they studying, do they know what they want to do in the future? What are their favourite subjects, and what extra curricular activities or clubs do they participate in? What is the best thing about the school, and what would they change about it?  How often do they receive reports? How does the discipline work? What is the day-to-day atmosphere like? What is the food like?

We regularly visit schools and meet Heads, teachers, staff and students. We strive to visit the students we help enrol in schools, and find that their opinions are usually the most insightful. Be sure to make the most of the opportunity to get a real insider’s view on what the school is like, and to understand the school’s most important product: Its students!

  1. BE SPECIFIC

This comes back to what is most important to your child. If they are passionate about art, then make sure you get ample time investigating this department – how inspiring are the facilities and staff? Are the teacher’s interested in your child? Is the work on display impressive?

If you are looking at boarding options, you’ll need to investigate this thoroughly. Make sure that you visit the dormitories or boarding bedrooms and the common areas. Are the facilities modern and comfortable or spartan and unwelcoming? Can the children personalise their space with their own mementos?  What happens at weekends?

Make sure that you investigate the most important aspects for you and your child. Most schools try to offer a good all-round provision of subjects and facilities but, inevitably, some are stronger in different areas.

5. DON’T BE SHY

Schools understand that school choice is one of the most important decisions you have to make for your child. They also understand that you will be looking at other options, and they want the fit to be right for both the school and your child.

So don’t hold back on your questions. Leave no stone unturned and ask whatever you feel you have to:
What are the qualifications and experience of teachers? What is the turnover of teaching staff? Could you ask to observe part of a lesson at a later date, perhaps during a private tour? What is the school’s examination track record? What proportion of 6th formers goes to university? What are their destinations? Does the school have dedicated higher education and careers advisers?  If you are looking at a prep school, how many children gain places at their chosen senior schools?

How competitive is the school to get into? How likely is your child to pass the entrance tests? Are there any sample tests available?

What next?

After a few visits you should get a better idea of what is on offer, and what will best suit your child. It very often comes down to a gut-feel. Be sure you know the deadlines and the application processes to each of your favourite schools, and support your child through the admissions tests and interviews

Identifying the best-fitting schools

If you are not sure where to start, or are unconvinced you are taking a comprehensive and fully informed approach to identifying the right schools, please get in touch to ask how we can help. We offer a free initial phone consultation to discuss your child, and can offer more bespoke school recommendations and application support where appropriate.